Project Gutenberg's Mark Twain's Speeches, by Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens)
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Title: Mark Twain's Speeches
Author: Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens)
Release Date: August 19, 2006 [EBook #3188]
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*** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK MARK TWAIN'S SPEECHES ***
Produced by David Widger
MARK TWAIN'S SPEECHES
by Mark Twain
THE STORY OF A SPEECH
PLYMOUTH ROCK AND THE PILGRIMS
COMPLIMENTS AND DEGREES
BOOKS, AUTHORS, AND HATS
DIE SCHRECKEN DER DEUTSCHEN SPRACHE.
THE HORRORS OF THE GERMAN LANGUAGE
GERMAN FOR THE HUNGARIANS
A NEW GERMAN WORD
OUR CHILDREN AND GREAT DISCOVERIES
THE EDUCATIONAL THEATRE
POETS AS POLICEMEN
PUDD'NHEAD WILSON DRAMATIZED
THE DRESS OF CIVILIZED WOMAN
DRESS REFORM AND COPYRIGHT
WOMAN'S PRESS CLUB
VOTES FOR WOMEN
ADVICE TO GIRLS
TAXES AND MORALS
TAMMANY AND CROKER
CHINA AND THE PHILIPPINES
THEORETICAL AND PRACTICAL MORALS
UNIVERSITY SETTLEMENT SOCIETY
PUBLIC EDUCATION ASSOCIATION
EDUCATION AND CITIZENSHIP
THE DINNER TO MR. CHOATE
ON STANLEY AND LIVINGSTONE
HENRY M. STANLEY
DINNER TO MR. JEROME
DINNER TO HAMILTON W. MABIE
INTRODUCING NYE AND RILEY
DINNER TO WHITELAW REID
ROGERS AND RAILROADS
THE OLD-FASHIONED PRINTER
SOCIETY OF AMERICAN AUTHORS
DISAPPEARANCE OF LITERATURE
THE NEW YORK PRESS CLUB DINNER
THE ALPHABET AND SIMPLIFIED SPELLING
SPELLING AND PICTURES
BOOKS AND BURGLARS
"MARK TWAIN's FIRST APPEARANCE"
MORALS AND MEMORY
JOAN OF ARC
CATS AND CANDY
CIGARS AND TOBACCO
THE UNION RIGHT OR WRONG?
AN IDEAL FRENCH ADDRESS
GALVESTON ORPHAN BAZAAR
SAN FRANCISCO EARTHQUAKE
CHARITY AND ACTORS
WATTERSON AND TWAIN AS REBELS
ROBERT FULTON FUND
FULTON DAY, JAMESTOWN
LOTOS CLUB DINNER IN HONOR OF MARK TWAIN
IN AID OF THE BLIND
DR. MARK TWAIN, FARMEOPATH
MISSOURI UNIVERSITY SPEECH
CARNEGIE THE BENEFACTOR
ON POETRY, VERACITY, AND SUICIDE
AN UNDELIVERED SPEECH
TO THE WHITEFRIARS
THE ASCOT GOLD CUP
THE SAVAGE CLUB DINNER
GENERAL MILES AND THE DOG
WHEN IN DOUBT, TELL THE TRUTH
THE DAY WE CELEBRATE
AMERICANS AND THE ENGLISH
THE ST. LOUIS HARBOR-BOAT "MARK TWAIN"
These speeches will address themselves to the minds and hearts of those
who read them, but not with the effect they had with those who heard
them; Clemens himself would have said, not with half the effect. I have
noted elsewhere how he always held that the actor doubled the value of
the author's words; and he was a great actor as well as a great author.
He was a most consummate actor, with this difference from other actors,
that he was the first to know the thoughts and invent the fancies to
which his voice and action gave the color of life. Representation is the
art of other actors; his art was creative as well as representative; it
was nothing at second hand.
I never heard Clemens speak when I thought he quite failed; some burst
or spurt redeemed him when he seemed flagging short of the goal, and,
whoever else was in the running, he came in ahead. His near-failures
were the error of a rare trust to the spontaneity in which other speakers
confide, or are believed to confide, when they are on their feet. He
knew that from the beginning of oratory the orator's spontaneity was for
the silence and solitude of the closet where he mused his words to an
imagined audience; that this was the use of orators from Demosthenes and
Cicero up and down. He studied every word and syllable, and memorized
them by a system of mnemonics peculiar to himself, consisting of an
arbitrary arrangement of things on a table--knives, forks, salt-cellars;
inkstands, pens, boxes, or whatever was at hand--which stood for points
and clauses and climaxes, and were at once indelible diction and constant
suggestion. He studied every tone and every gesture, and he forecast the
result with the real audience from its result with that imagined
audience. Therefore, it was beautiful to see him and to hear him; he
rejoiced in the pleasure he gave and the blows of surprise which he
dealt; and because he had his end in mind, he knew when to stop.
I have been talking of his method and manner; the matter the reader has
here before him; and it is good matter, glad, honest, kind, just.
W. D. HOWELLS.
FROM THE PREFACE TO THE ENGLISH EDITION OF "MARK TWAIN'S SKETCHES"
If I were to sell the reader a barrel of molasses, and he, instead of
sweetening his substantial dinner with the same at judicious intervals,
should eat the entire barrel at one sitting, and then abuse me for making
him sick, I would say that he deserved to be made sick for not knowing
any better how to utilize the blessings this world affords. And if I
sell to the reader this volume of nonsense, and he, instead of seasoning
his graver reading with a chapter of it now and then, when his mind
demands such relaxation, unwisely overdoses himself with several chapters
of it at a single sitting, he will deserve to be nauseated, and he will
have nobody to blame but himself if he is. There is no more sin in
publishing an entire volume of nonsense than there is in keeping a
candy-store with no hardware in it. It lies wholly with the customer
whether he will injure himself by means of either, or will derive from
them the benefits which they will afford him if he uses their
MARK TWAIN'S SPEECHES
THE STORY OF A SPEECH
An address delivered in 1877, and a review of it twenty-nine
years later. The original speech was delivered at a dinner
given by the publishers of The Atlantic Monthly in honor of the
seventieth anniversary o f the birth of John Greenleaf
Whittier, at the Hotel Brunswick, Boston, December 17, 1877.
This is an occasion peculiarly meet for the digging up of pleasant
reminiscences concerning literary folk; therefore I will drop lightly
into history myself. Standing here on the shore of the Atlantic and
contemplating certain of its largest literary billows, I am reminded of a
thing which happened to me thirteen years ago, when I had just succeeded
in stirring up a little Nevadian literary puddle myself, whose
spume-flakes were beginning to blow thinly Californiaward. I started an
inspection tramp through the southern mines of California. I was callow
and conceited, and I resolved to try the virtue of my 'nom de guerre'.
I very soon had an opportunity. I knocked at a miner's lonely log cabin
in the foot-hills of the Sierras just at nightfall. It was snowing at
the time. A jaded, melancholy man of fifty, barefooted, opened the door
to me. When he heard my 'nom de guerre' he looked more dejected than
before. He let me in--pretty reluctantly, I thought--and after the
customary bacon and beans, black coffee and hot whiskey, I took a pipe.
This sorrowful man had not said three words up to this time. Now he
spoke up and said, in the voice of one who is secretly suffering, "You're
the fourth--I'm going to move." "The fourth what?" said I. "The fourth
littery man that has been here in twenty-four hours--I'm going to move."
"You don't tell me!" said I; "who were the others?" "Mr. Longfellow,
Mr. Emerson, and Mr. Oliver Wendell Holmes--consound the lot!"
You can, easily believe I was interested. I supplicated--three hot
whiskeys did the rest--and finally the melancholy miner began. Said he:
"They came here just at dark yesterday evening, and I let them in of
course. Said they were going to the Yosemite. They were a rough lot,
but that's nothing; everybody looks rough that travels afoot.
Mr. Emerson was a seedy little bit of a chap, red-headed. Mr. Holmes was
as fat as a balloon; he weighed as much as three hundred, and had double
chins all the way down to his stomach. Mr. Longfellow was built like a
prizefighter. His head was cropped and bristly, like as if he had a wig
made of hair-brushes. His nose lay straight down, his face, like a
finger with the end joint tilted up. They had been drinking, I could see
that. And what queer talk they used! Mr. Holmes inspected this cabin,
then he took me by the buttonhole, and says he:
"'Through the deep caves of thought
I hear a voice that sings,
Build thee more stately mansions,
O my soul!'
"Says I, 'I can't afford it, Mr. Holmes, and moreover I don't want to.'
Blamed if I liked it pretty well, either, coming from a stranger, that
way. However, I started to get out my bacon and beans, when Mr. Emerson
came and looked on awhile, and then he takes me aside by the buttonhole
"'Give me agates for my meat;
Give me cantharids to eat;
From air and ocean bring me foods,
From all zones and altitudes.'
"Says I, 'Mr. Emerson, if you'll excuse me, this ain't no hotel.'
You see it sort of riled me--I warn't used to the ways of littery swells.
But I went on a-sweating over my work, and next comes Mr. Longfellow and
buttonholes me, and interrupts me. Says he:
"'Honor be to Mudjekeewis!
You shall hear how Pau-Puk-Keewis--'
"But I broke in, and says I, 'Beg your pardon, Mr. Longfellow, if you'll
be so kind as to hold your yawp for about five minutes and let me get
this grub ready, you'll do me proud.' Well, sir, after they'd filled up
I set out the jug. Mr. Holmes looks at it, and then he fires up all of a
sudden and yells:
"Flash out a stream of blood-red wine!
For I would drink to other days.'
"By George, I was getting kind of worked up. I don't deny it, I was
getting kind of worked up. I turns to Mr. Holmes, and says I, 'Looky
here, my fat friend, I'm a-running this shanty, and if the court knows
herself, you'll take whiskey straight or you'll go dry.' Them's the very
words I said to him. Now I don't want to sass such famous littery
people, but you see they kind of forced me. There ain't nothing
onreasonable 'bout me; I don't mind a passel of guests a-treadin' on my
tail three or four times, but when it comes to standing on it it's
different, 'and if the court knows herself,' I says, 'you'll take whiskey
straight or you'll go dry.' Well, between drinks they'd swell around the
cabin and strike attitudes and spout; and pretty soon they got out a
greasy old deck and went to playing euchre at ten cents a corner--on
trust. I began to notice some pretty suspicious things. Mr. Emerson
dealt, looked at his hand, shook his head, says:
"'I am the doubter and the doubt--'
and ca'mly bunched the hands and went to shuffling for a new layout.
"'They reckon ill who leave me out;
They know not well the subtle ways I keep.
I pass and deal again!'
Hang'd if he didn't go ahead and do it, too! Oh, he was a cool one!
Well, in about a minute things were running pretty tight, but all of a
sudden I see by Mr. Emerson's eye he judged he had 'em. He had already
corralled two tricks, and each of the others one. So now he kind of
lifts a little in his chair and says:
"'I tire of globes and aces!
Too long the game is played!'
--and down he fetched a right bower. Mr. Longfellow smiles as sweet as
pie and says:
"'Thanks, thanks to thee, my worthy friend,
For the lesson thou hast taught,'
--and blamed if he didn't down with another right bower! Emerson claps
his hand on his bowie, Longfellow claps his on his revolver, and I went
under a bunk. There was going to be trouble; but that monstrous Holmes
rose up, wobbling his double chins, and says he, 'Order, gentlemen; the
first man that draws, I'll lay down on him and smother him!' All quiet
on the Potomac, you bet!
"They were pretty how-come-you-so by now, and they begun to blow.
Emerson says, 'The nobbiest thing I ever wrote was "Barbara Frietchie."'
Says Longfellow, 'It don't begin with my "Biglow Papers."' Says Holmes,
'My "Thanatopsis" lays over 'em both.' They mighty near ended in a fight.
Then they wished they had some more company--and Mr. Emerson pointed to
me and says:
"'Is yonder squalid peasant all
That this proud nursery could breed?'
He was a-whetting his bowie on his boot--so I let it pass. Well, sir,
next they took it into their heads that they would like some music; so
they made me stand up and sing "When Johnny Comes Marching Home" till I
dropped-at thirteen minutes past four this morning. That's what I've
been through, my friend. When I woke at seven, they were leaving, thank
goodness, and Mr. Longfellow had my only boots on, and his'n under his
arm. Says I, 'Hold on, there, Evangeline, what are you going to do with
them?' He says, 'Going to make tracks with 'em; because:
"'Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime;
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time.'
"As I said, Mr. Twain, you are the fourth in twenty-four hours--and I'm
going to move; I ain't suited to a littery atmosphere."
I said to the miner, "Why, my dear sir, these were not the gracious
singers to whom we and the world pay loving reverence and homage; these
The miner investigated me with a calm eye for a while; then said he, "Ah!
impostors, were they? Are you?"
I did not pursue the subject, and since then I have not travelled on my
'nom de guerre' enough to hurt. Such was the reminiscence I was moved to
contribute, Mr. Chairman. In my enthusiasm I may have exaggerated the
details a little, but you will easily forgive me that fault, since I
believe it is the first time I have ever deflected from perpendicular
fact on an occasion like this.
From Mark Twain's Autobiography.
January 11, 1906.
Answer to a letter received this morning:
DEAR MRS. H.,--I am forever your debtor for reminding me of that
curious passage in my life. During the first year or, two after it
happened, I could not bear to think of it. My pain and shame were
so intense, and my sense of having been an imbecile so settled,
established and confirmed, that I drove the episode entirely from my
mind--and so all these twenty-eight or twenty-nine years I have
lived in the conviction that my performance of that time was coarse,
vulgar, and destitute of humor. But your suggestion that you and
your family found humor in it twenty-eight years ago moved me to
look into the matter. So I commissioned a Boston typewriter to
delve among the Boston papers of that bygone time and send me a copy
It came this morning, and if there is any vulgarity about it I am
not able to discover it. If it isn't innocently and ridiculously
funny, I am no judge. I will see to it that you get a copy.
What I have said to Mrs. H. is true. I did suffer during a year or two
from the deep humiliations of that episode. But at last, in 1888, in
Venice, my wife and I came across Mr. and Mrs. A. P. C., of Concord,
Massachusetts, and a friendship began then of the sort which nothing but
death terminates. The C.'s were very bright people and in every way
charming and companionable. We were together a month or two in Venice
and several months in Rome, afterward, and one day that lamented break of
mine was mentioned. And when I was on the point of lathering those
people for bringing it to my mind when I had gotten the memory of it
almost squelched, I perceived with joy that the C.'s were indignant about
the way that my performance had been received in Boston. They poured out
their opinions most freely and frankly about the frosty attitude of the
people who were present at that performance, and about the Boston
newspapers for the position they had taken in regard to the matter.
That position was that I had been irreverent beyond belief, beyond
imagination. Very well; I had accepted that as a fact for a year or two,
and had been thoroughly miserable about it whenever I thought of it
--which was not frequently, if I could help it. Whenever I thought of it
I wondered how I ever could have been inspired to do so unholy a thing.
Well, the C.'s comforted me, but they did not persuade me to continue to
think about the unhappy episode. I resisted that. I tried to get it out
of my mind, and let it die, and I succeeded. Until Mrs. H.'s letter
came, it had been a good twenty-five years since I had thought of that
matter; and when she said that the thing was funny I wondered if possibly
she might be right. At any rate, my curiosity was aroused, and I wrote
to Boston and got the whole thing copied, as above set forth.
I vaguely remember some of the details of that gathering--dimly I can see
a hundred people--no, perhaps fifty--shadowy figures sitting at tables
feeding, ghosts now to me, and nameless forevermore. I don't know who
they were, but I can very distinctly see, seated at the grand table and
facing the rest of us, Mr. Emerson, supernaturally grave, unsmiling;
Mr. Whittier, grave, lovely, his beautiful spirit shining out of his
face; Mr. Longfellow, with his silken white hair and his benignant face;
Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes, flashing smiles and affection and all
good-fellowship everywhere like a rose-diamond whose facets are being
turned toward the light first one way and then another--a charming man,
and always fascinating, whether he was talking or whether he was sitting
still (what he would call still, but what would be more or less motion to
other people). I can see those figures with entire distinctness across
this abyss of time.
One other feature is clear--Willie Winter (for these past thousand years
dramatic editor of the New York Tribune, and still occupying that high
post in his old age) was there. He was much younger then than he is now,
and he showed 'it. It was always a pleasure to me to see Willie Winter
at a banquet. During a matter of twenty years I was seldom at a banquet
where Willie Winter was not also present, and where he did not read a
charming poem written for the occasion. He did it this time, and it was
up to standard: dainty, happy, choicely phrased, and as good to listen to
as music, and sounding exactly as if it was pouring unprepared out of
heart and brain.
Now at that point ends all that was pleasurable about that notable
celebration of Mr. Whittier's seventieth birthday--because I got up at
that point and followed Winter, with what I have no doubt I supposed
would be the gem of the evening--the gay oration above quoted from the
Boston paper. I had written it all out the day before and had perfectly
memorized it, and I stood up there at my genial and happy and
self-satisfied ease, and began to deliver it. Those majestic guests;
that row of venerable and still active volcanoes, listened; as did
everybody else in the house, with attentive interest. Well, I delivered
myself of--we'll say the first two hundred words of my speech. I was
expecting no returns from that part of the speech, but this was not the
case as regarded the rest of it. I arrived now at the dialogue: "The
old miner said, 'You are the fourth, I'm going to move.' 'The fourth
what?' said I. He answered, 'The fourth littery man that has been here
in twenty-four hours. I am going to move.' 'Why, you don't tell me;'
said I. 'Who were the others?' 'Mr. Longfellow, Mr. Emerson, Mr. Oliver
Wendell Holmes, consound the lot--'"
Now, then, the house's attention continued, but the expression of
interest in the faces turned to a sort of black frost. I wondered what
the trouble was. I didn't know. I went on, but with difficulty
--I struggled along, and entered upon that miner's fearful description of
the bogus Emerson, the bogus Holmes, the bogus Longfellow, always hoping
--but with a gradually perishing hope that somebody--would laugh, or that
somebody would at least smile, but nobody did. I didn't know enough to
give it up and sit down, I was too new to public speaking, and so I went
on with this awful performance, and carried it clear through to the end,
in front of a body of people who seemed turned to stone with horror.
It was the sort of expression their faces would have worn if I had been
making these remarks about the Deity and the rest of the Trinity; there
is no milder way, in which to describe the petrified condition and the
ghastly expression of those people.
When I sat down it was with a heart which had long ceased to beat.
I shall never be as dead again as I was then. I shall never be as
miserable again as I was then. I speak now as one who doesn't know what
the condition of things may be in the next world, but in this one I shall
never be as wretched again as I was then. Howells, who was near me,
tried to say a comforting word, but couldn't get beyond a gasp. There
was no use--he understood the whole size of the disaster. He had good
intentions, but the words froze before they could get out. It was an
atmosphere that would freeze anything. If Benvenuto Cellini's salamander
had been in that place he would not have survived to be put into
Cellini's autobiography. There was a frightful pause. There was an
awful silence, a desolating silence. Then the next man on the list had
to get up--there was no help for it. That was Bishop--Bishop had just
burst handsomely upon the world with a most acceptable novel, which had
appeared in The Atlantic Monthly, a place which would make any novel
respectable and any author noteworthy. In this case the novel itself was
recognized as being, without extraneous help, respectable. Bishop was
away up in the public favor, and he was an object of high interest,
consequently there was a sort of national expectancy in the air; we may
say our American millions were standing, from Maine to Texas and from
Alaska to Florida, holding their breath, their lips parted, their hands
ready to applaud, when Bishop should get up on that occasion, and for the
first time in his life speak in public. It was under these damaging
conditions that he got up to "make good," as the vulgar say. I had
spoken several times before, and that is the reason why I was able to go
on without dying in my tracks, as I ought to have done--but Bishop had
had no experience. He was up facing those awful deities--facing those
other people, those strangers--facing human beings for the first time in
his life, with a speech to utter. No doubt it was well packed away in
his memory, no doubt it was fresh and usable, until I had been heard
from. I suppose that after that, and under the smothering pall of that
dreary silence, it began to waste away and disappear out of his head like
the rags breaking from the edge of a fog, and presently there wasn't any
fog left. He didn't go on--he didn't last long. It was not many
sentence's after his first before he began to hesitate, and break, and
lose his grip, and totter, and wobble, and at last he slumped down in a
limp and mushy pile.
Well, the programme for the occasion was probably not more than
one-third finished, but it ended there. Nobody rose. The next man
hadn't strength enough to get up, and everybody looked so dazed, so
stupefied, paralyzed; it was impossible for anybody to do anything, or
even try. Nothing could go on in that strange atmosphere. Howells
mournfully, and without words, hitched himself to Bishop and me and
supported us out of the room. It was very kind--he was most generous.
He towed us tottering away into same room in that building, and we sat
down there. I don't know what my remark was now, but I know the nature
of it. It was the kind of remark you make when you know that nothing in
the world can help your case. But Howells was honest--he had to say the
heart-breaking things he did say: that there was no help for this
calamity, this shipwreck, this cataclysm; that this was the most
disastrous thing that had ever happened in anybody's history--and then he
added, "That is, for you--and consider what you have done for Bishop. It
is bad enough in your case, you deserve, to suffer. You have committed
this crime, and you deserve to have all you are going to get. But here
is an innocent man. Bishop had never done you any harm, and see what you
have done to him. He can never hold his head up again. The world can
never look upon Bishop as being a live person. He is a corpse."
That is the history of that episode of twenty-eight years ago, which
pretty nearly killed me with shame during that first year or two whenever
it forced its way into my mind.
Now then, I take that speech up and examine it. As I said, it arrived
this morning, from Boston. I have read it twice, and unless I am an
idiot, it hasn't a single defect in it from the first word to the last.
It is just as good as good can be. It is smart; it is saturated with
humor. There isn't a suggestion of coarseness or vulgarity in it
anywhere. What could have been the matter with that house? It is
amazing, it is incredible, that they didn't shout with laughter, and
those deities the loudest of them all. Could the fault have been with
me? Did I lose courage when I saw those great men up there whom I was
going to describe in such a strange fashion? If that happened, if I
showed doubt, that can account for it, for you can't be successfully
funny if you show that you are afraid of it. Well, I can't account for
it, but if I had those beloved and revered old literary immortals back
here now on the platform at Carnegie Hall I would take that same old
speech, deliver it, word for word, and melt them till they'd run all over
that stage. Oh, the fault must have been with me, it is not in the
speech at all.
PLYMOUTH ROCK AND THE PILGRIMS
ADDRESS AT THE FIRST ANNUAL DINNER, N. E. SOCIETY,
PHILADELPHIA, DECEMBER 22, 1881
On calling upon Mr. Clemens to make response,
President Rollins said:
"This sentiment has been assigned to one who was never exactly
born in New England, nor, perhaps, were any of his ancestors.
He is not technically, therefore, of New England descent.
Under the painful circumstances in which he has found himself,
however, he has done the best he could--he has had all his
children born there, and has made of himself a New England
ancestor. He is a self-made man. More than this, and better
even, in cheerful, hopeful, helpful literature he is of New
England ascent. To ascend there in any thing that's reasonable
is difficult; for--confidentially, with the door shut--we all
know that they are the brightest, ablest sons of that goodly
land who never leave it, and it is among and above them that
Mr. Twain has made his brilliant and permanent ascent--become
a man of mark."
I rise to protest. I have kept still for years; but really I think there
is no sufficient justification for this sort of thing. What do you want
to celebrate those people for?--those ancestors of yours of 1620--the
Mayflower tribe, I mean. What do you want to celebrate them for? Your
pardon: the gentleman at my left assures me that you are not celebrating
the Pilgrims themselves, but the landing of the Pilgrims at Plymouth rock
on the 22d of December. So you are celebrating their landing. Why, the
other pretext was thin enough, but this is thinner than ever; the other
was tissue, tinfoil, fish-bladder, but this is gold-leaf. Celebrating
their lauding! What was there remarkable about it, I would like to know?
What can you be thinking of? Why, those Pilgrims had been at sea three
or four months. It was the very middle of winter: it was as cold as
death off Cape Cod there. Why shouldn't they come ashore? If they
hadn't landed there would be some reason for celebrating the fact: It
would have been a case of monumental leatherheadedness which the world
would not willingly let die. If it had been you, gentlemen, you probably
wouldn't have landed, but you have no shadow of right to be celebrating,
in your ancestors, gifts which they did not exercise, but only
transmitted. Why, to be celebrating the mere landing of the Pilgrims
--to be trying to make out that this most natural and simple and
customary procedure was an extraordinary circumstance--a circumstance to
be amazed at, and admired, aggrandized and glorified, at orgies like this
for two hundred and sixty years--hang it, a horse would have known enough
to land; a horse--Pardon again; the gentleman on my right assures me that
it was not merely the landing of the Pilgrims that we are celebrating,
but the Pilgrims themselves. So we have struck an inconsistency here
--one says it was the landing, the other says it was the Pilgrims. It
is an inconsistency characteristic of your intractable and disputatious
tribe, for you never agree about anything but Boston. Well, then, what
do you want to celebrate those Pilgrims for? They were a mighty hard
lot--you know it. I grant you, without the slightest unwillingness, that
they were a deal more gentle and merciful and just than were the people
of Europe of that day; I grant you that they are better than their
predecessors. But what of that?--that is nothing. People always
progress. You are better than your fathers and grandfathers were
(this is the first time I have ever aimed a measureless slander at the
departed, for I consider such things improper). Yes, those among you who
have not been in the penitentiary, if such there be, are better than your
fathers and grandfathers were; but is that any sufficient reason, for
getting up annual dinners and celebrating you? No, by no means--by no
means. Well, I repeat, those Pilgrims were a hard lot. They took good
care of themselves, but they abolished everybody else's ancestors. I am
a border-ruffian from the State of Missouri. I am a Connecticut Yankee
by adoption. In me, you have Missouri morals, Connecticut culture; this,
gentlemen, is the combination which makes the perfect man. But where are
my ancestors? Whom shall I celebrate? Where shall I find the raw
My first American ancestor, gentlemen, was an Indian--an early Indian.
Your ancestors skinned him alive, and I am an orphan. Not one drop of my
blood flows in that Indian's veins today. I stand here, lone and
forlorn, without an ancestor. They skinned him! I do not object to
that, if they needed his fur; but alive, gentlemen-alive! They skinned
him alive--and before company! That is what rankles. Think how he must
have felt; for he was a sensitive person and easily embarrassed. If he
had been a bird, it would have been all right, and no violence done to
his feelings, because he would have been considered "dressed." But he
was not a bird, gentlemen, he was a man, and probably one of the most
undressed men that ever was. I ask you to put yourselves in his place.
I ask it as a favor; I ask it as a tardy act of justice; I ask it in the
interest of fidelity to the traditions of your ancestors; I ask it that
the world may contemplate, with vision unobstructed by disguising
swallow-tails and white cravats, the spectacle which the true New England
Society ought to present. Cease to come to these annual orgies in this
hollow modern mockery--the surplusage of raiment. Come in character;
come in the summer grace, come in the unadorned simplicity, come in the
free and joyous costume which your sainted ancestors provided for mine.
Later ancestors of mine were the Quakers William Robinson, Marmaduke
Stevenson, et al. Your tribe chased them put of the country for their
religion's sake; promised them death if they came back; for your
ancestors had forsaken the homes they loved, and braved the perils of the
sea, the implacable climate, and the savage wilderness, to acquire that
highest and most precious of boons, freedom for every man on this broad
continent to worship according to the dictates of his own conscience--and
they were not going to allow a lot of pestiferous Quakers to interfere
with it. Your ancestors broke forever the chains of political slavery,
and gave the vote to every man in this wide land, excluding none!--none
except those who did not belong to the orthodox church. Your ancestors
--yes, they were a hard lot; but, nevertheless, they gave us religious
liberty to worship as they required us to worship, and political liberty
to vote as the church required; and so I the bereft one, I the forlorn
one, am here to do my best to help you celebrate them right.
The Quaker woman Elizabeth Hooton was an ancestress of mine. Your people
were pretty severe with her you will confess that. But, poor thing!
I believe they changed her opinions before she died, and took her into
their fold; and so we have every reason to presume that when she died she
went to the same place which your ancestors went to. It is a great pity,
for she was a good woman. Roger Williams was an ancestor of mine.
I don't really remember what your people did with him. But they banished
him to Rhode Island, anyway. And then, I believe, recognizing that this
was really carrying harshness to an unjustifiable extreme, they took pity
on him and burned him. They were a hard lot! All those Salem witches
were ancestors of mine! Your people made it tropical for them. Yes,
they did; by pressure and the gallows they made such a clean deal with
them that there hasn't been a witch and hardly a halter in our family
from that day to this, and that is one hundred and eighty-nine years.
The first slave brought into New England out of Africa by your
progenitors was an ancestor of mine--for I am of a mixed breed, an
infinitely shaded and exquisite Mongrel. I'm not one of your sham
meerschaums that you can color in a week. No, my complexion is the
patient art of eight generations. Well, in my own time, I had acquired a
lot of my kin--by purchase, and swapping around, and one way and another
--and was getting along very well. Then, with the inborn perversity of
your lineage, you got up a war, and took them all away from me. And so,
again am I bereft, again am I forlorn; no drop of my blood flows in the
veins of any living being who is marketable.
O my friends, hear me and reform! I seek your good, not mine. You have
heard the speeches. Disband these New England societies--nurseries of a
system of steadily augmenting laudation and hosannaing, which; if
persisted in uncurbed, may some day in the remote future beguile you into
prevaricating and bragging. Oh, stop, stop, while you are still
temperate in your appreciation of your ancestors! Hear me, I beseech
you; get up an auction and sell Plymouth Rock! The Pilgrims were a
simple and ignorant race. They never had seen any good rocks before, or
at least any that were not watched, and so they were excusable for
hopping ashore in frantic delight and clapping an iron fence around this
one. But you, gentlemen, are educated; you are enlightened; you know
that in the rich land of your nativity, opulent New England, overflowing
with rocks, this one isn't worth, at the outside, more than thirty-five
cents. Therefore, sell it, before it is injured by exposure, or at least
throw it open to the patent-medicine advertisements, and let it earn its
Yes, hear your true friend-your only true friend--list to his voice.
Disband these societies, hotbeds of vice, of moral decay--perpetuators of
ancestral superstition. Here on this board I see water, I see milk, I
see the wild and deadly lemonade. These are but steps upon the downward
path. Next we shall see tea, then chocolate, then coffee--hotel coffee.
A few more years--all too few, I fear--mark my words, we shall have
cider! Gentlemen, pause ere it be too late. You are on the broad road
which leads to dissipation, physical ruin, moral decay, gory crime and
the gallows! I beseech you, I implore you, in the name of your anxious
friends, in the name of your suffering families, in the name of your
impending widows and orphans, stop ere it be too late. Disband these New
England societies, renounce these soul-blistering saturnalia, cease from
varnishing the rusty reputations of your long-vanished ancestors--the
super-high-moral old iron-clads of Cape Cod, the pious buccaneers of
Plymouth Rock--go home, and try to learn to behave!
However, chaff and nonsense aside, I think I honor and appreciate your
Pilgrim stock as much as you do yourselves, perhaps; and I endorse and
adopt a sentiment uttered by a grandfather of mine once--a man of sturdy
opinions, of sincere make of mind, and not given to flattery. He said:
"People may talk as they like about that Pilgrim stock, but, after all's
said and done, it would be pretty hard to improve on those people; and,
as for me, I don't mind coming out flatfooted and saying there ain't any
way to improve on them--except having them born in, Missouri!"
COMPLIMENTS AND DEGREES
DELIVERED AT THE LOTOS CLUB, JANUARY 11, 1908
In introducing Mr. Clemens, Frank R. Lawrence, the President
of the Lotos Club, recalled the fact that the first club dinner
in the present club-house, some fourteen years ago, was in
honor of Mark Twain.
I wish to begin this time at the beginning, lest I forget it altogether;
that is to say, I wish to thank you for this welcome that you are giving,
and the welcome which you gave me seven years ago, and which I forgot to
thank you for at that time. I also wish to thank you for the welcome you
gave me fourteen years ago, which I also forgot to thank you for at the
I hope you will continue this custom to give me a dinner every seven
years before I join the hosts in the other world--I do not know which
Mr. Lawrence and Mr. Porter have paid me many compliments. It is very
difficult to take compliments. I do not care whether you deserve the
compliments or not, it is just as difficult to take them. The other
night I was at the Engineers' Club, and enjoyed the sufferings of
Mr. Carnegie. They were complimenting him there; there it was all
compliments, and none of them deserved. They say that you cannot live
by bread alone, but I can live on compliments.
I do not make any pretence that I dislike compliments. The stronger the
better, and I can manage to digest them. I think I have lost so much by
not making a collection of compliments, to put them away and take them
out again once in a while. When in England I said that I would start to
collect compliments, and I began there and I have brought some of them
The first one of these lies--I wrote them down and preserved them
--I think they are mighty good and extremely just. It is one of Hamilton
Mabie's compliments. He said that La Salle was the first one to make a
voyage of the Mississippi, but Mark Twain was the first to chart, light,
and navigate it for the whole world.
If that had been published at the time that I issued that book [Life on
the Mississippi], it would have been money in my pocket. I tell you, it
is a talent by itself to pay compliments gracefully and have them ring
true. It's an art by itself.
Here is another compliment by Albert Bigelow Paine, my biographer. He is
writing four octavo volumes about me, and he has been at my elbow two and
I just suppose that he does not know me, but says he knows me. He says
"Mark Twain is not merely a great writer, a great philosopher, a great
man; he is the supreme expression of the human being, with his strength
and his weakness." What a talent for compression! It takes a genius in
compression to compact as many facts as that.
W. D. Howells spoke of me as first of Hartford, and ultimately of the
solar system, not to say of the universe:
You know how modest Howells is. If it can be proved that my fame reaches
to Neptune and Saturn; that will satisfy even me. You know how modest
and retiring Howells seems to be, but deep down he is as vain as I am.
Mr. Howells had been granted a degree at Oxford, whose gown was red.
He had been invited to an exercise at Columbia, and upon inquiry had been
told that it was usual to wear the black gown: Later he had found that
three other men wore bright gowns, and he had lamented that he had been
one of the black mass, and not a red torch.
Edison wrote: "The average American loves his family. If he has any love
left over for some other person, he generally selects Mark Twain."
Now here's the compliment of a little Montana girl which came to me
indirectly. She was in a room in which there was a large photograph of
me. After gazing at it steadily for a time, she said:
"We've got a John the Baptist like that." She also said: "Only ours has
I suppose she meant the halo. Now here is a gold-miner's compliment.
It is forty-two years old. It was my introduction to an audience to
which I lectured in a log school-house. There were no ladies there.
I wasn't famous then. They didn't know me. Only the miners were there,
with their breeches tucked into their boottops and with clay all over
them. They wanted some one to introduce me, and they selected a miner,
who protested, saying:
"I don't know anything about this man. Anyhow, I only know two things
about him. One is, he has never been in jail, and the other is, I don't
There's one thing I want to say about that English trip. I knew his
Majesty the King of England long years ago, and I didn't meet him for the
first time then. One thing that I regret was that some newspapers said
I talked with the Queen of England with my hat on. I don't do that with
any woman. I did not put it on until she asked me to. Then she told me
to put it on, and it's a command there. I thought I had carried my
American democracy far enough. So I put it on. I have no use for a hat,
and never did have.
Who was it who said that the police of London knew me? Why, the police
know me everywhere. There never was a day over there when a policeman
did not salute me, and then put up his hand and stop the traffic of the
world. They treated me as though I were a duchess.
The happiest experience I had in England was at a dinner given in the
building of the Punch publication, a humorous paper which is appreciated
by all Englishmen. It was the greatest privilege ever allowed a
foreigner. I entered the dining-room of the building, where those men
get together who have been running the paper for over fifty years. We
were about to begin dinner when the toastmaster said: "Just a minute;
there ought to be a little ceremony." Then there was that meditating
silence for a while, and out of a closet there came a beautiful little
girl dressed in pink, holding in her hand a copy of the previous week's
paper, which had in it my cartoon. It broke me all up. I could not even
say "Thank you." That was the prettiest incident of the dinner, the
delight of all that wonderful table. When she was about to go; I said,
"My child, you are not going to leave me; I have hardly got acquainted
with you." She replied, "You know I've got to go; they never let me come
in here before, and they never will again." That is one of the beautiful
incidents that I cherish.
[At the conclusion of his speech, and while the diners were still
cheering him, Colonel Porter brought forward the red-and-gray gown
of the Oxford "doctor," and Mr. Clemens was made to don it.
The diners rose to their feet in their enthusiasm. With the
mortar-board on his head, and looking down admiringly at himself,
Mr. Twain said--]
I like that gown. I always did like red. The redder it is the better
I like it. I was born for a savage. Now, whoever saw any red like this?
There is no red outside the arteries of an archangel that could compare
with this. I know you all envy me. I am going to have luncheon shortly
with ladies just ladies. I will be the only lady of my sex present, and
I shall put on this gown and make those ladies look dim.
BOOKS, AUTHORS, AND HATS
ADDRESS AT THE PILGRIMS' CLUB LUNCHEON, GIVEN IN HONOR OF Mr.
CLEMENS AT THE SAVOY HOTEL, LONDON, JUNE 25, 1907.
Mr. Birrell, M.P., Chief-Secretary for Ireland, in introducing
Mr. Clemens said: "We all love Mark Twain, and we are here to
tell him so. One more point--all the world knows it, and that
is why it is dangerous to omit it--our guest is a distinguished
citizen of the Great Republic beyond the seas. In America his
'Huckleberry Finn' and his 'Tom Sawyer' are what 'Robinson
Crusoe' and 'Tom Brown's School Days' have been to us. They
are racy of the soil. They are books to which it is impossible
to place any period of termination. I will not speak of the
classics--reminiscences of much evil in our early lives. We do
not meet here to-day as critics with our appreciations and
depreciations, our twopenny little prefaces or our forewords.
I am not going to say what the world a thousand years hence
will think of Mark Twain. Posterity will take care of itself,
will read what it wants to read, will forget what it chooses to
forget, and will pay no attention whatsoever to our critical
mumblings and jumblings. Let us therefore be content to say to
our friend and guest that we are here speaking for ourselves
and for our children, to say what he has been to us. I
remember in Liverpool, in 1867, first buying the copy, which I
still preserve, of the celebrated 'Jumping Frog.' It had a few
words of preface which reminded me then that our guest in those
days was called 'the wild humorist of the Pacific slope,' and a
few lines later down, 'the moralist of the Main.' That was
some forty years ago. Here he is, still the humorist, still
the moralist. His humor enlivens and enlightens his morality,
and his morality is all the better for his humor. That is one
of the reasons why we love him. I am not here to mention any
book of his--that is a subject of dispute in my family circle,
which is the best and which is the next best--but I must put in
a word, lest I should not be true to myself--a terrible thing
--for his Joan of Arc, a book of chivalry, of nobility, and of
manly sincerity for which I take this opportunity of thanking
him. But you can all drink this toast, each one of you with
his own intention. You can get into it what meaning you like.
Mark Twain is a man whom English and Americans do well to
honor. He is the true consolidator of nations. His delightful
humor is of the kind which dissipates and destroys national
prejudices. His truth and his honor, his love of truth, and
his love of honor, overflow all boundaries. He has made the
world better by his presence. We rejoice to see him here.
Long may he live to reap the plentiful harvest of hearty,
honest human affection!"
Pilgrims, I desire first to thank those undergraduates of Oxford.
When a man has grown so old as I am, when he has reached the verge of
seventy-two years, there is nothing that carries him back to the
dreamland of his life, to his boyhood, like recognition of those young
hearts up yonder. And so I thank them out of my heart. I desire to thank
the Pilgrims of New York also for their kind notice and message which
they have cabled over here. Mr. Birrell says he does not know how he got
here. But he will be able to get away all right--he has not drunk
anything since he came here. I am glad to know about those friends of
his, Otway and Chatterton--fresh, new names to me. I am glad of the
disposition he has shown to rescue them from the evils of poverty, and if
they are still in London, I hope to have a talk with them. For a while I
thought he was going to tell us the effect which my book had upon his
growing manhood. I thought he was going to tell us how much that effect
amounted to, and whether it really made him what he now is, but with the
discretion born of Parliamentary experience he dodged that, and we do not
know now whether he read the book or not. He did that very neatly. I
could not do it any better myself.
My books have had effects, and very good ones, too, here and there, and
some others not so good. There is no doubt about that. But I remember
one monumental instance of it years and years ago. Professor Norton, of
Harvard, was over here, and when he came back to Boston I went out with
Howells to call on him. Norton was allied in some way by marriage with
Mr. Norton was very gentle in what he had to say, and almost delicate,
and he said: "Mr. Clemens, I have been spending some time with Mr. Darwin
in England, and I should like to tell you something connected with that
visit. You were the object of it, and I myself would have been very
proud of it, but you may not be proud of it. At any rate, I am going to
tell you what it was, and to leave to you to regard it as you please.
Mr. Darwin took me up to his bedroom and pointed out certain things
there-pitcher-plants, and so on, that he was measuring and watching from
day to day--and he said: 'The chambermaid is permitted to do what she
pleases in this room, but she must never touch those plants and never
touch those books on that table by that candle. With those books I read
myself to sleep every night.' Those were your own books." I said:
"There is no question to my mind as to whether I should regard that as a
compliment or not. I do regard it as a very great compliment and a very
high honor that that great mind, laboring for the whole human race,
should rest itself on my books. I am proud that he should read himself
to sleep with them."
Now, I could not keep that to myself--I was so proud of it. As soon as I
got home to Hartford I called up my oldest friend--and dearest enemy on
occasion--the Rev. Joseph Twichell, my pastor, and I told him about that,
and, of course, he was full of interest and venom. Those people who get
no compliments like that feel like that. He went off. He did not issue
any applause of any kind, and I did not hear of that subject for some
time. But when Mr. Darwin passed away from this life, and some time
after Darwin's Life and Letters came out, the Rev. Mr. Twichell procured
an early copy of that work and found something in it which he considered
applied to me. He came over to my house--it was snowing, raining,
sleeting, but that did not make any difference to Twichell. He produced
the book, and turned over and over, until he came to a certain place,
when he said: "Here, look at this letter from Mr. Darwin to Sir Joseph
Hooker." What Mr. Darwin said--I give you the idea and not the very
words--was this: I do not know whether I ought to have devoted my whole
life to these drudgeries in natural history and the other sciences or
not, for while I may have gained in one way I have lost in another. Once
I had a fine perception and appreciation of high literature, but in me
that quality is atrophied. "That was the reason," said Mr. Twichell, "he
was reading your books."
Mr. Birrell has touched lightly--very lightly, but in not an
uncomplimentary way--on my position in this world as a moralist. I am
glad to have that recognition, too, because I have suffered since I have
been in this town; in the first place, right away, when I came here, from
a newsman going around with a great red, highly displayed placard in the
place of an apron. He was selling newspapers, and there were two
sentences on that placard which would have been all right if they had
been punctuated; but they ran those two sentences together without a
comma or anything, and that would naturally create a wrong impression,
because it said, "Mark Twain arrives Ascot Cup stolen." No doubt many a
person was misled by those sentences joined together in that unkind way.
I have no doubt my character has suffered from it. I suppose I ought to
defend my character, but how can I defend it? I can say here and now
--and anybody can see by my face that I am sincere, that I speak the truth
--that I have never seen that Cup. I have not got the Cup--I did not have
a chance to get it. I have always had a good character in that way. I
have hardly ever stolen anything, and if I did steal anything I had
discretion enough to know about the value of it first. I do not steal
things that are likely to get myself into trouble. I do not think any of
us do that. I know we all take things--that is to be expected--but
really, I have never taken anything, certainly in England, that amounts
to any great thing. I do confess that when I was here seven years ago I
stole a hat, but that did not amount to anything. It was not a good hat,
and was only a clergyman's hat, anyway.
I was at a luncheon party, and Archdeacon Wilberforce was there also. I
dare say he is Archdeacon now--he was a canon then--and he was serving in
the Westminster battery, if that is the proper term--I do not know, as
you mix military and ecclesiastical things together so much. He left the
luncheon table before I did. He began this. I did steal his hat, but he
began by taking mine. I make that interjection because I would not
accuse Archdeacon Wilberforce of stealing my hat--I should not think of
it. I confine that phrase to myself. He merely took my hat.
And with good judgment, too--it was a better hat than his. He came out
before the luncheon was over, and sorted the hats in the hall, and
selected one which suited. It happened to be mine. He went off with it.
When I came out by-and-by there was no hat there which would go on my
head except his, which was left behind. My head was not the customary
size just at that time. I had been receiving a good many very nice and
complimentary attentions, and my head was a couple of sizes larger than
usual, and his hat just suited me. The bumps and corners were all right
intellectually. There were results pleasing to me--possibly so to him.
He found out whose hat it was, and wrote me saying it was pleasant that
all the way home, whenever he met anybody his gravities, his solemnities,
his deep thoughts, his eloquent remarks were all snatched up by the
people he met, and mistaken for brilliant humorisms.
I had another experience. It was not unpleasing. I was received with a
deference which was entirely foreign to my experience by everybody whom I
met, so that before I got home I had a much higher opinion of myself than
I have ever had before or since. And there is in that very connection an
incident which I remember at that old date which is rather melancholy to
me, because it shows how a person can deteriorate in a mere seven years.
It is seven years ago. I have not that hat now. I was going down
Pall-Mall, or some other of your big streets, and I recognized that that
hat needed ironing. I went into a big shop and passed in my hat, and
asked that it might be ironed. They were courteous, very courteous, even
courtly. They brought that hat back to me presently very sleek and nice,
and I asked how much there was to pay. They replied that they did not
charge the clergy anything. I have cherished the delight of that moment
from that day to this. It was the first thing I did the other day to go
and hunt up that shop and hand in my hat to have it ironed. I said when
it came back, "How much to pay?" They said, "Ninepence." In seven years
I have acquired all that worldliness, and I am sorry to be back where I
was seven years ago.
But now I am chaffing and chaffing and chaffing here, and I hope you will
forgive me for that; but when a man stands on the verge of seventy-two
you know perfectly well that he never reached that place without knowing
what this life is heart-breaking bereavement. And so our reverence is
for our dead. We do not forget them; but our duty is toward the living;
and if we can be cheerful, cheerful in spirit, cheerful in speech and in
hope, that is a benefit to those who are around us.
My own history includes an incident which will always connect me with
England in a pathetic way, for when I arrived here seven years ago with
my wife and my daughter--we had gone around the globe lecturing to raise
money to clear off a debt--my wife and one of my daughters started across
the ocean to bring to England our eldest daughter. She was twenty four
years of age and in the bloom of young womanhood, and we were
unsuspecting. When my wife and daughter--and my wife has passed from
this life since--when they had reached mid Atlantic, a cablegram--one of
those heartbreaking cablegrams which we all in our days have to
experience--was put into my hand. It stated that that daughter of ours
had gone to her long sleep. And so, as I say, I cannot always be
cheerful, and I cannot always be chaffing; I must sometimes lay the cap
and bells aside, and recognize that I am of the human race like the rest,
and must have my cares and griefs. And therefore I noticed what Mr.
Birrell said--I was so glad to hear him say it--something that was in the
nature of these verses here at the top of this:
"He lit our life with shafts of sun
And vanquished pain.
Thus two great nations stand as one
In honoring Twain."
I am very glad to have those verses. I am very glad and very grateful
for what Mr. Birrell said in that connection. I have received since I
have been here, in this one week, hundreds of letters from all conditions
of people in England--men, women, and children--and there is in them
compliment, praise, and, above all and better than all, there is in them
a note of affection. Praise is well, compliment is well, but affection
--that is the last and final and most precious reward that any man can
win, whether by character or achievement, and I am very grateful to have
that reward. All these letters make me feel that here in England--as in
America--when I stand under the English flag, I am not a stranger. I am
not an alien, but at home.
AT THE DEDICATION OF THE COLLEGE OF THE CITY OF NEW YORK,
MAY 16, 1908
Mr. Clemens wore his gown as Doctor of Laws, Oxford University.
Ambassador Bryce and Mr. Choate had made the formal addresses.
How difficult, indeed, is the higher education. Mr. Choate needs a
little of it. He is not only short as a statistician of New York, but he
is off, far off, in his mathematics. The four thousand citizens of
Greater New York, indeed!
But I don't think it was wise or judicious on the part of Mr. Choate to
show this higher education he has obtained. He sat in the lap of that
great education (I was there at the time), and see the result--the
lamentable result. Maybe if he had had a sandwich here to sustain him
the result would not have been so serious.
For seventy-two years I have been striving to acquire that higher
education which stands for modesty and diffidence, and it doesn't work.
And then look at Ambassador Bryce, who referred to his alma mater,
Oxford. He might just as well have included me. Well, I am a later
If I am the latest graduate, I really and sincerely hope I am not the
final flower of its seven centuries; I hope it may go on for seven ages
DIE SCHRECKEN DER DEUTSCHEN SPRACHE [THE HORRORS OF THE GERMAN LANGUAGE]
ADDRESS TO THE VIENNA PRESS CLUB, NOVEMBER 21, 1897,
DELIVERED IN GERMAN [Here in literal translation]
It has me deeply touched, my gentlemen, here so hospitably received to
be. From colleagues out of my own profession, in this from my own home
so far distant land. My heart is full of gratitude, but my poverty of
German words forces me to greater economy of expression. Excuse you, my
gentlemen, that I read off, what I you say will. [But he didn't read].
The German language speak I not good, but have numerous connoisseurs me
assured that I her write like an angel. Maybe--maybe--I know not. Have
till now no acquaintance with the angels had. That comes later--when it
the dear God please--it has no hurry.
Since long, my gentlemen, have I the passionate longing nursed a speech
on German to hold, but one has me not permitted. Men, who no feeling for
the art had, laid me ever hindrance in the way and made naught my desire
--sometimes by excuses, often by force. Always said these men to me:
"Keep you still, your Highness! Silence! For God's sake seek another
way and means yourself obnoxious to make."
In the present case, as usual it is me difficult become, for me the
permission to obtain. The committee sorrowed deeply, but could me the
permission not grant on account of a law which from the Concordia demands
she shall the German language protect. Du liebe Zeit! How so had one to
me this say could--might--dared--should? I am indeed the truest friend
of the German language--and not only now, but from long since--yes,
before twenty years already. And never have I the desire had the noble
language to hurt; to the contrary, only wished she to improve--I would
her only reform. It is the dream of my life been. I have already visits
by the various German governments paid and for contracts prayed. I am
now to Austria in the same task come. I would only some changes effect.
I would only the language method--the luxurious, elaborate construction
compress, the eternal parenthesis suppress, do away with, annihilate; the
introduction of more than thirteen subjects in one sentence forbid; the
verb so far to the front pull that one it without a telescope discover
can. With one word, my gentlemen, I would your beloved language simplify
so that, my gentlemen, when you her for prayer need, One her yonder-up
I beseech you, from me yourself counsel to let, execute these mentioned
reforms. Then will you an elegant language possess, and afterward, when
you some thing say will, will you at least yourself understand what you
said had. But often nowadays, when you a mile-long sentence from you
given and you yourself somewhat have rested, then must you have a
touching inquisitiveness have yourself to determine what you actually
spoken have. Before several days has the correspondent of a local paper
a sentence constructed which hundred and twelve words contain, and
therein were seven parentheses smuggled in, and the subject seven times
changed. Think you only, my gentlemen, in the course of the voyage of a
single sentence must the poor, persecuted, fatigued subject seven times
Now, when we the mentioned reforms execute, will it no longer so bad be.
Doch noch eins. I might gladly the separable verb also a little bit
reform. I might none do let what Schiller did: he has the whole history
of the Thirty Years' War between the two members of a separable verb
in-pushed. That has even Germany itself aroused, and one has Schiller the
permission refused the History of the Hundred Years' War to compose--God
be it thanked! After all these reforms established be will, will the
German language the noblest and the prettiest on the world be.
Since to you now, my gentlemen, the character of my mission known is,
beseech I you so friendly to be and to me your valuable help grant.
Mr. Potzl has the public believed make would that I to Vienna come am in
order the bridges to clog up and the traffic to hinder, while I
observations gather and note. Allow you yourselves but not from him
deceived. My frequent presence on the bridges has an entirely innocent
ground. Yonder gives it the necessary space, yonder can one a noble long
German sentence elaborate, the bridge-railing along, and his whole
contents with one glance overlook. On the one end of the railing pasted
I the first member of a separable verb and the final member cleave I to
the other end--then spread the body of the sentence between it out!
Usually are for my purposes the bridges of the city long enough; when I
but Potzl's writings study will I ride out and use the glorious endless
imperial bridge. But this is a calumny; Potzl writes the prettiest
German. Perhaps not so pliable as the mine, but in many details much
better. Excuse you these flatteries. These are well deserved.
Now I my speech execute--no, I would say I bring her to the close. I am a
foreigner--but here, under you, have I it entirely forgotten. And so
again and yet again proffer I you my heartiest thanks.
GERMAN FOR THE HUNGARIANS
ADDRESS AT THE JUBILEE CELEBRATION OF THE EMANCIPATION OF THE
HUNGARIAN PRESS, MARCH 26, 1899
The Ministry and members of Parliament were present. The
subject was the "Ausgleich"--i. e., the arrangement for the
apportionment of the taxes between Hungary and Austria.
Paragraph 14 of the ausgleich fixes the proportion each country
must pay to the support of the army. It is the paragraph which
caused the trouble and prevented its renewal.
Now that we are all here together, I think it will be a good idea to
arrange the ausgleich. If you will act for Hungary I shall be quite
willing to act for Austria, and this is the very time for it. There
couldn't be a better, for we are all feeling friendly, fair-minded, and
hospitable now, and, full of admiration for each other, full of
confidence in each other, full of the spirit of welcome, full of the
grace of forgiveness, and the disposition to let bygones be bygones.
Let us not waste this golden, this beneficent, this providential
opportunity. I am willing to make any concession you want, just so we
get it settled. I am not only willing to let grain come in free, I am
willing to pay the freight on it, and you may send delegates to the
Reichsrath if you like. All I require is that they shall be quiet,
peaceable people like your own deputies, and not disturb our proceedings.
If you want the Gegenseitigengeldbeitragendenverhaltnismassigkeiten
rearranged and readjusted I am ready for that. I will let you off at
twenty-eight per cent.--twenty-seven--even twenty-five if you insist,
for there is nothing illiberal about me when I am out on a diplomatic
Now, in return for these concessions, I am willing to take anything in
reason, and I think we may consider the business settled and the
ausgleich ausgegloschen at last for ten solid years, and we will sign the
papers in blank, and do it here and now.
Well, I am unspeakably glad to have that ausgleich off my hands. It has
kept me awake nights for anderthalbjahr.
But I never could settle it before, because always when I called at the
Foreign Office in Vienna to talk about it, there wasn't anybody at home,
and that is not a place where you can go in and see for yourself whether
it is a mistake or not, because the person who takes care of the front
door there is of a size that discourages liberty of action and the free
spirit of investigation. To think the ausgleich is abgemacht at last!
It is a grand and beautiful consummation, and I am glad I came.
The way I feel now I do honestly believe I would rather be just my own
humble self at this moment than paragraph 14.
A NEW GERMAN WORD
To aid a local charity Mr. Clemens appeared before a
fashionable audience in Vienna, March 10, 1899, reading his
sketch "The Lucerne Girl," and describing how he had been
interviewed and ridiculed. He said in part:
I have not sufficiently mastered German, to allow my using it with
impunity. My collection of fourteen-syllable German words is still
incomplete. But I have just added to that collection a jewel
--a veritable jewel. I found it in a telegram from Linz, and it
contains ninety-five letters:
If I could get a similar word engraved upon my tombstone I should sleep
beneath it in peace.
DELIVERED AT THE DINNER GIVEN BY THE PUBLISHERS OF "THE
ATLANTIC MONTHLY" TO OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES, IN HONOR OF HIS
SEVENTIETH BIRTHDAY, AUGUST 29, 1879
I would have travelled a much greater distance than I have come to
witness the paying of honors to Doctor Holmes; for my feeling toward him
has always been one of peculiar warmth. When one receives a letter from
a great man for the first time in his life, it is a large event to him,
as all of you know by your own experience. You never can receive letters
enough from famous men afterward to obliterate that one, or dim the
memory of the pleasant surprise it was, and the gratification it gave
you. Lapse of time cannot make it commonplace or cheap.
Well, the first great man who ever wrote me a letter was our guest
--Oliver Wendell Holmes. He was also the first great literary man I ever
stole anything from--and that is how I came to write to him and he to me.
When my first book was new, a friend of mine said to me, "The dedication
is very neat." Yes, I said, I thought it was. My friend said, "I always
admired it, even before I saw it in The Innocents Abroad." I naturally
said: "What do you mean? Where did you ever see it before?" "Well, I
saw it first some years ago as Doctor Holmes's dedication to his Songs in
Many Keys." Of course, my first impulse was to prepare this man's
remains for burial, but upon reflection I said I would reprieve him for a
moment or two and give him a chance to prove his assertion if he could:
We stepped into a book-store, and he did prove it. I had really stolen
that dedication, almost word for word. I could not imagine how this
curious thing had happened; for I knew one thing--that a certain amount
of pride always goes along with a teaspoonful of brains, and that this
pride protects a man from deliberately stealing other people's ideas.
That is what a teaspoonful of brains will do for a man--and admirers had
often told me I had nearly a basketful--though they were rather reserved
as to the size of the basket.
However, I thought the thing out, and solved the mystery. Two years
before, I had been laid up a couple of weeks in the Sandwich Islands, and
had read and re-read Doctor Holmes's poems till my mental reservoir was
filled up with them to the brim. The dedication lay on the top, and
handy, so, by-and-by, I unconsciously stole it. Perhaps I unconsciously
stole the rest of the volume, too, for many people have told me that my
book was pretty poetical, in one way or another. Well, of course, I
wrote Doctor Holmes and told him I hadn't meant to steal, and he wrote
back and said in the kindest way that it was all right and no harm done;
and added that he believed we all unconsciously worked over ideas
gathered in reading and hearing, imagining they were original with
ourselves. He stated a truth, and did it in such a pleasant way, and
salved over my sore spot so gently and so healingly, that I was rather
glad I had committed the crime, far the sake of the letter. I afterward
called on him and told him to make perfectly free with any ideas of mine
that struck him as being good protoplasm for poetry. He could see by
that that there wasn't anything mean about me; so we got along right from
the start. I have not met Doctor Holmes many times since; and lately he
said--However, I am wandering wildly away from the one thing which
I got on my feet to do; that is, to make my compliments to you, my
fellow-teachers of the great public, and likewise to say that I am right
glad to see that Doctor Holmes is still in his prime and full of generous
life; and as age is not determined by years, but by trouble and
infirmities of mind and body, I hope it may be a very long time yet
before any one can truthfully say, "He is growing old."
ADDRESS AT THE NEW ENGLAND SOCIETY'S SEVENTY FIRST
ANNUAL DINNER, NEW YORK CITY
The next toast was: "The Oldest Inhabitant-The Weather of New England."
"Who can lose it and forget it?
Who can have it and regret it?
Be interposer 'twixt us Twain."
--Merchant of Venice.
I reverently believe that the Maker who made us all makes everything in
New England but the weather. I don't know who makes that, but I think it
must be raw apprentices in the weather-clerk's factory who experiment and
learn how, in New England, for board and clothes, and then are promoted
to make weather for countries that require a good article, and will take
their custom elsewhere if they don't get it. There is a sumptuous
variety about the New England weather that compels the stranger's
admiration--and regret. The weather is always doing something there;
always attending strictly to business; always getting up new designs and
trying them on the people to see how they will go. But it gets through
more business in spring than in any other season. In the spring I have
counted one hundred and thirty-six different kinds of weather inside of
four-and-twenty hours. It was I that made the fame and fortune of that
man that had that marvellous collection of weather on exhibition at the
Centennial, that so astounded the foreigners. He was going to travel all
over the world and get specimens from all the climes. I said, "Don't you
do it; you come to New England on a favorable spring day." I told him
what we could do in the way of style, variety, and quantity. Well, he
came and he made his collection in four days. As to variety, why, he
confessed that he got hundreds of kinds of weather that he had never
heard of before. And as to quantity well, after he had picked out and
discarded all that was blemished in any way, he not only had weather
enough, but weather to spare; weather to hire out; weather to sell; to
deposit; weather to invest; weather to give to the poor. The people of
New England are by nature patient and forbearing, but there are some
things which they will not stand. Every year they kill a lot of poets
for writing about "Beautiful Spring." These are generally casual
visitors, who bring their notions of spring from somewhere else, and
cannot, of course, know how the natives feel about spring. And so the
first thing they know the opportunity to inquire how they feel has
permanently gone by. Old Probabilities has a mighty reputation for
accurate prophecy, and thoroughly well deserves it. You take up the
paper and observe how crisply and confidently he checks off what to-day's
weather is going to be on the Pacific, down South, in the Middle States,
in the Wisconsin region. See him sail along in the joy and pride of his
power till he gets to New England, and then see his tail drop.
He doesn't know what the weather is going to be in New England.
Well, he mulls over it, and by and-by he gets out something about like
this: Probably northeast to southwest winds, varying to the southward
and westward and eastward, and points between, high and low barometer
swapping around from place to place; probable areas of rain, snow, hail,
and drought, succeeded or preceded by earthquakes, with thunder and
lightning. Then he jots down his postscript from his wandering mind, to
cover accidents. "But it is possible that the programme may be wholly
changed in the mean time." Yes, one of the brightest gems in the New
England weather is the dazzling uncertainty of it. There is only one
thing certain about it: you are certain there is going to be plenty of
it--a perfect grand review; but you never can tell which end of the
procession is going to move first. You fix up for the drought; you leave
your umbrella in the house and sally out, and two to one you get
drowned. You make up your mind that the earthquake is due; you stand
from under, and take hold of something to steady yourself, and the first
thing you know you get struck by lightning. These are great
disappointments; but they can't be helped. The lightning there is
peculiar; it is so convincing, that when it strikes a thing it doesn't
leave enough of that thing behind for you to tell whether--Well, you'd
think it was something valuable, and a Congressman had been there.
And the thunder. When the thunder begins to merely tune up and scrape
and saw, and key up the instruments for the performance, strangers say,
"Why, what awful thunder you have here!" But when the baton is raised and
the real concert begins, you'll find that stranger down in the cellar
with his head in the ash-barrel. Now as to the size of the weather in
New England--lengthways, I mean. It is utterly disproportioned to the
size of that little country. Half the time, when it is packed as full as
it can stick, you will see that New England weather sticking out beyond
the edges and projecting around hundreds and hundreds of miles over the
neighboring States. She can't hold a tenth part of her weather. You can
see cracks all about where she has strained herself trying to do it.
I could speak volumes about the inhuman perversity of the New England
weather, but I will give but a single specimen. I like to hear rain on a
tin roof. So I covered part of my roof with tin, with an eye to that
luxury. Well, sir, do you think it ever rains on that tin? No, sir;
skips it every time. Mind, in this speech I have been trying merely to
do honor to the New England weather--no language could do it justice.
But, after all, there is at least one or two things about that weather
(or, if you please, effects produced by it) which we residents would not
like to part with. If we hadn't our bewitching autumn foliage, we should
still have to credit the weather with one feature which compensates for
all its bullying vagaries--the ice-storm: when a leafless tree is clothed
with ice from the bottom to the top--ice that is as bright and clear as
crystal; when every bough and twig is strung with ice-beads, frozen
dew-drops, and the whole tree sparkles cold and white, like the Shah of
Persia's diamond plume. Then the wind waves the branches and the sun
comes out and turns all those myriads of beads and drops to prisms that
glow and burn and flash with all manner of colored fires, which change
and change again with inconceivable rapidity from blue to red, from red
to green, and green to gold--the tree becomes a spraying fountain, a very
explosion of dazzling jewels; and it stands there the acme, the climax,
the supremest possibility in art or nature, of bewildering, intoxicating,
intolerable magnificence. One cannot make the words too strong.
DELIVERED AT THE BANQUET, IN CHICAGO, GIVEN BY THE ARMY OF THE
TENNESSEE TO THEIR FIRST COMMANDER, GENERAL U. S. GRANT,
The fifteenth regular toast was "The Babies.--As they comfort
us in our sorrows, let us not forget them in our festivities."
I like that. We have not all had the good fortune to be ladies. We have
not all been generals, or poets, or statesmen; but when the toast works
down to the babies, we stand on common ground. It is a shame that for a
thousand years the world's banquets have utterly ignored the baby, as if
he didn't amount to anything. If you will stop and think a minute--if
you will go back fifty or one hundred years to your early married life
and recontemplate your first baby--you will remember that he amounted to
a good deal, and even something over. You soldiers all know that when
that little fellow arrived at family headquarters you had to hand in your
resignation. He took entire command. You became his lackey, his mere
body-servant, and you had to stand around too. He was not a commander
who made allowances for time, distance, weather, or anything else. You
had to execute his order whether it was possible or not. And there was
only one form of marching in his manual of tactics, and that was the
double-quick. He treated you with every sort of insolence and
disrespect, and the bravest of you didn't dare to say a word. You could
face the death-storm at Donelson and Vicksburg, and give back blow for
blow; but when he clawed your whiskers, and pulled your hair, and twisted
your nose, you had to take it. When the thunders of war were sounding in
your ears you set your faces toward the batteries, and advanced with
steady tread; but when he turned on the terrors of his war whoop you
advanced in the other direction, and mighty glad of the chance, too.
When he called for soothing-syrup, did you venture to throw out any
side-remarks about certain services being unbecoming an officer and a
gentleman? No. You got up and got it. When he ordered his pap bottle
and it was not warm, did you talk back? Not you. You went to work and
warmed it. You even descended so far in your menial office as to take a
suck at that warm, insipid stuff yourself, to see if it was right--three
parts water to one of milk, a touch of sugar to modify the colic, and a
drop of peppermint to kill those immortal hiccoughs. I can taste that
stuff yet. And how many things you learned as you went along!
Sentimental young folks still take stock in that beautiful old saying
that when the baby smiles in his sleep, it is because the angels are
whispering to him. Very pretty, but too thin--simply wind on the
stomach, my friends. If the baby proposed to take a walk at his usual
hour, two o'clock in the morning, didn't you rise up promptly and remark,
with a mental addition which would not improve a Sunday-school book much,
that that was the very thing you were about to propose yourself? Oh!
you were under good discipline, and as you went fluttering up and down
the room in your undress uniform, you not only prattled undignified
baby-talk, but even tuned up your martial voices and tried to sing!
--Rock a-by Baby in the Tree-top, for instance. What a spectacle far an
Army of the Tennessee! And what an affliction for the neighbors, too;
for it is not everybody within, a mile around that likes military music
at three in the morning. And, when you had been keeping this sort of
thing up two or three hours, and your little velvet head intimated that
nothing suited him like exercise and noise, what did you do? You simply
went on until you dropped in the last ditch. The idea that a baby
doesn't amount to anything! Why, one baby is just a house and a front
yard full by itself. One baby can, furnish more business than you and
your whole Interior Department can attend to. He is enterprising,
irrepressible, brimful of lawless activities. Do what you please, you
can't make him stay on the reservation. Sufficient unto the day is one
baby. As long as you are in your right mind don't you ever pray for
twins. Twins amount to a permanent riot. And there ain't any real
difference between triplets and an insurrection.
Yes, it was high time for a toast-master to recognize the importance of
the babies. Think what is in store for the present crop! Fifty years
from now we shall all be dead, I trust, and then this flag, if it still
survive (and let us hope it may), will be floating over a Republic
numbering 200,000,000 souls, according to the settled laws of our
increase. Our present schooner of State will have grown into a political
leviathan--a Great Eastern. The cradled babies of to-day will be on
deck. Let them be well trained, for we are going to leave a big contract
on their hands. Among the three or four million cradles now rocking in
the land are some which this nation would preserve for ages as sacred
things, if we could know which ones they are. In one of these cradles
the unconscious Farragut of the future is at this moment teething think
of it! and putting in a world of dead earnest, unarticulated, but
perfectly justifiable profanity over it, too. In another the future
renowned astronomer is blinking at the shining Milky Way with but a
languid interest poor little chap!--and wondering what has become of that
other one they call the wet-nurse. In another the future great historian
is lying--and doubtless will continue to lie until his earthly mission is
ended. In another the future President is busying himself with no
profounder problem of state than what the mischief has become of his hair
so early; and in a mighty array of other cradles there are now some
60,000 future office-seekers, getting ready to furnish him occasion to
grapple with that same old problem a second, time. And in still one
more cradle, some where under the flag, the future illustrious
commander-in-chief of the American armies is so little burdened with his
approaching grandeurs and responsibilities as to be giving his whole
strategic mind at this moment to trying to find out some way to get his
big toe into his mouth--an achievement which, meaning no disrespect, the
illustrious guest of this evening turned his entire attention to some
fifty-six years ago; and if the child is but a prophecy of the man,
there are mighty few who will doubt that he succeeded.
OUR CHILDREN AND GREAT DISCOVERIES
DELIVERED AT THE AUTHORS' CLUB, NEW YORK
Our children--yours--and--mine. They seem like little things to talk
about--our children, but little things often make up the sum of human
life--that's a good sentence. I repeat it, little things often produce
great things. Now, to illustrate, take Sir Isaac Newton--I presume some
of you have heard of Mr. Newton. Well, once when Sir Isaac Newton
--a mere lad--got over into the man's apple orchard--I don't know
what he was doing there--I didn't come all the way from Hartford to
q-u-e-s-t-i-o-n Mr. Newton's honesty--but when he was there--in the main
orchard--he saw an apple fall and he was a-t-t-racted toward it, and that
led to the discovery--not of Mr. Newton but of the great law of
attraction and gravitation.
And there was once another great discoverer--I've forgotten his name,
and I don't remember what he discovered, but I know it was something very
important, and I hope you will all tell your children about it when you
get home. Well, when the great discoverer was once loafn' around down in
Virginia, and a-puttin' in his time flirting with Pocahontas--oh!
Captain John Smith, that was the man's name--and while he and Poca were
sitting in Mr. Powhatan's garden, he accidentally put his arm around her
and picked something simple weed, which proved to be tobacco--and now we
find it in every Christian family, shedding its civilizing influence
broadcast throughout the whole religious community.
Now there was another great man, I can't think of his name either, who
used to loaf around and watch the great chandelier in the cathedral at
Pisa., which set him to thinking about the great law of gunpowder, and
eventually led to the discovery of the cotton-gin.
Now, I don't say this as an inducement for our young men to loaf around
like Mr. Newton and Mr. Galileo and Captain Smith, but they were once
little babies two days old, and they show what little things have
The children of the Educational Alliance gave a performance of
"The Prince and the Pauper" on the afternoon of April 14, 1907,
in the theatre of the Alliance Building in East Broadway. The
audience was composed of nearly one thousand children of the
neighborhood. Mr. Clemens, Mr. Howells, and Mr. Daniel Frohman
were among the invited guests.
I have not enjoyed a play so much, so heartily, and so thoroughly since I
played Miles Hendon twenty-two years ago. I used to play in this piece
("The Prince and the Pauper") with my children, who, twenty-two years
ago, were little youngsters. One of my daughters was the Prince, and a
neighbor's daughter was the Pauper, and the children of other neighbors
played other parts. But we never gave such a performance as we have seen
here to-day. It would have been beyond us.
My late wife was the dramatist and stage-manager. Our coachman was the
stage-manager, second in command. We used to play it in this simple way,
and the one who used to bring in the crown on a cushion--he was a little
fellow then--is now a clergyman way up high--six or seven feet high--and
growing higher all the time. We played it well, but not as well as you
see it here, for you see it done by practically trained professionals.
I was especially interested in the scene which we have just had, for
Miles Hendon was my part. I did it as well as a person could who never
remembered his part. The children all knew their parts. They did not
mind if I did not know mine. I could thread a needle nearly as well as
the player did whom you saw to-day. The words of my part I could supply
on the spot. The words of the song that Miles Hendon sang here I did not
catch. But I was great in that song.
[Then Mr. Clemens hummed a bit of doggerel that the reporter
made out as this:
"There was a woman in her town,
She loved her husband well,
But another man just twice as well."
"How is that?" demanded Mr. Clemens. Then resuming]
It was so fresh and enjoyable to make up a new set of words each time
that I played the part.
If I had a thousand citizens in front of me, I would like to give them
information, but you children already know all that I have found out
about the Educational Alliance. It's like a man living within thirty
miles of Vesuvius and never knowing about a volcano. It's like living
for a lifetime in Buffalo, eighteen miles from Niagara, and never going
to see the Falls. So I had lived in New York and knew nothing about the
This theatre is a part of the work, and furnishes pure and clean plays.
This theatre is an influence. Everything in the world is accomplished by
influences which train and educate. When you get to be seventy-one and a
half, as I am, you may think that your education is over, but it isn't.
If we had forty theatres of this kind in this city of four millions, how
they would educate and elevate! We should have a body of educated
It would make better citizens, honest citizens. One of the best gifts a
millionaire could make would be a theatre here and a theatre there. It
would make of you a real Republic, and bring about an educational level.
THE EDUCATIONAL THEATRE
On November 19, 1907, Mr. Clemens entertained a party of six or
seven hundred of his friends, inviting them to witness the
representation of "The Prince and the Pauper," flayed by boys
and girls of the East Side at the Children's Educational
Theatre, New York.
Just a word or two to let you know how deeply I appreciate the honor
which the children who are the actors and frequenters of this cozy
playhouse have conferred upon me. They have asked me to be their
ambassador to invite the hearts and brains of New York to come down here
and see the work they are doing. I consider it a grand distinction to be
chosen as their intermediary. Between the children and myself there is
an indissoluble bond of friendship.
I am proud of this theatre and this performance--proud, because I am
naturally vain--vain of myself and proud of the children.
I wish we could reach more children at one time. I am glad to see that
the children of the East Side have turned their backs on the Bowery
theatres to come to see the pure entertainments presented here.
This Children's Theatre is a great educational institution. I hope the
time will come when it will be part of every public school in the land.
I may be pardoned in being vain. I was born vain, I guess. [At this
point the stage-manager's whistle interrupted Mr. Clemens.] That settles
it; there's my cue to stop. I was to talk until the whistle blew, but it
blew before I got started. It takes me longer to get started than most
people. I guess I was born at slow speed. My time is up, and if you'll
keep quiet for two minutes I'll tell you something about Miss Herts, the
woman who conceived this splendid idea. She is the originator and the
creator of this theatre. Educationally, this institution coins the gold
of young hearts into external good.
[On April 23, 1908, he spoke again at the same place]
I will be strictly honest with you; I am only fit to be honorary
president. It is not to be expected that I should be useful as a real
president. But when it comes to things ornamental I, of course, have no
objection. There is, of course, no competition. I take it as a very
real compliment because there are thousands of children who have had a
part in this request. It is promotion in truth.
It is a thing worth doing that is done here. You have seen the children
play. You saw how little Sally reformed her burglar. She could reform
any burglar. She could reform me. This is the only school in which can
be taught the highest and most difficult lessons--morals. In other
schools the way of teaching morals is revolting. Here the children who
come in thousands live through each part.
They are terribly anxious for the villain to get his bullet, and that I
take to be a humane and proper sentiment. They spend freely the ten
cents that is not saved without a struggle. It comes out of the candy
money, and the money that goes for chewing-gum and other necessaries of
life. They make the sacrifice freely. This is the only school which
they are sorry to leave.
POETS AS POLICEMEN
Mr. Clemens was one of the speakers at the Lotos Club dinner to
Governor Odell, March 24, 1900. The police problem was
referred to at length.
Let us abolish policemen who carry clubs and revolvers, and put in a
squad of poets armed to the teeth with poems on Spring and Love. I would
be very glad to serve as commissioner, not because I think I am
especially qualified, but because I am too tired to work and would like
to take a rest.
Howells would go well as my deputy. He is tired too, and needs a rest
I would start in at once to elevate, purify, and depopulate the red-light
district. I would assign the most soulful poets to that district,
all heavily armed with their poems. Take Chauncey Depew as a sample.
I would station them on the corners after they had rounded up all the
depraved people of the district so they could not escape, and then have
them read from their poems to the poor unfortunates. The plan would be
very effective in causing an emigration of the depraved element.
PUDD'NHEAD WILSON DRAMATIZED
When Mr. Clemens arrived from Europe in 1895 one of the first
things he did was to see the dramatization of Pudd'nhead
Wilson. The audience becoming aware of the fact that Mr.
Clemens was in the house called upon him for a speech.
Never in my life have I been able to make a speech without preparation,
and I assure you that this position in which I find myself is one totally
I have been hemmed in all day by William Dean Howells and other frivolous
persons, and I have been talking about everything in the world except
that of which speeches are constructed. Then, too, seven days on the
water is not conducive to speech-making. I will only say that I
congratulate Mr. Mayhew; he has certainly made a delightful play out of
my rubbish. His is a charming gift. Confidentially I have always had
an idea that I was well equipped to write plays, but I have never
encountered a manager who has agreed with me.
ADDRESS AT A DINNER AFTER THE ONE HUNDREDTH PERFORMANCE OF
"THE TAMING OF THE SHREW."
Mr. Clemens made the following speech, which he incorporated
afterward in Following the Equator.
I am glad to be here. This is the hardest theatre in New York to get
into, even at the front door. I never, got in without hard work. I am
glad we have got so far in at last. Two or three years ago I had an
appointment to meet Mr. Daly on the stage of this theatre at eight
o'clock in the evening. Well, I got on a train at Hartford to come to
New York and keep the appointment. All I had to do was to come to the
back door of the theatre on Sixth Avenue. I did not believe that; I did
not believe it could be on Sixth Avenue, but that is what Daly's note
said--come to that door, walk right in, and keep the appointment. It
looked very easy. It looked easy enough, but I had not much confidence
in the Sixth Avenue door.
Well, I was kind of bored on the train, and I bought some newspapers--New
Haven newspapers--and there was not much news in them, so I read the
advertisements. There was one advertisement of a bench-show. I had
heard of bench-shows, and I often wondered what there was about them to
interest people. I had seen bench-shows--lectured to bench-shows, in
fact--but I didn't want to advertise them or to brag about them. Well,
I read on a little, and learned that a bench-show was not a bench-show
--but dogs, not benches at all--only dogs. I began to be interested,
and as there was nothing else to do I read every bit of the
advertisement, and learned that the biggest thing in this show was a St.
Bernard dog that weighed one hundred and forty-five pounds. Before I got
to New York I was so interested in the bench-shows that I made up my mind
to go to one the first chance I got. Down on Sixth Avenue, near where
that back door might be, I began to take things leisurely. I did not
like to be in too much of a hurry. There was not anything in sight that
looked like a back door. The nearest approach to it was a cigar store.
So I went in and bought a cigar, not too expensive, but it cost enough to
pay for any information I might get and leave the dealer a fair profit.
Well, I did not like to be too abrupt, to make the man think me crazy, by
asking him if that was the way to Daly's Theatre, so I started gradually
to lead up to the subject, asking him first if that was the way to Castle
Garden. When I got to the real question, and he said he would show me
the way, I was astonished. He sent me through a long hallway, and I
found myself in a back yard. Then I went through a long passageway and
into a little room, and there before my eyes was a big St. Bernard dog
lying on a bench. There was another door beyond and I went there, and
was met by a big, fierce man with a fur cap on and coat off, who
remarked, "Phwat do yez want?" I told him I wanted to see Mr. Daly.
"Yez can't see Mr. Daly this time of night," he responded. I urged that
I had an appointment with Mr. Daly, and gave him my card, which did not
seem to impress him much. "Yez can't get in and yez can't shmoke here.
Throw away that cigar. If yez want to see Mr. Daly, yez 'll have to be
after going to the front door and buy a ticket, and then if yez have luck
and he's around that way yez may see him." I was getting discouraged,
but I had one resource left that had been of good service in similar
emergencies. Firmly but kindly I told him my name was Mark Twain, and I
awaited results. There was none. He was not fazed a bit. "Phwere's
your order to see Mr. Daly?" he asked. I handed him the note, and he
examined it intently. "My friend," I remarked, "you can read that better
if you hold it the other side up." But he took no notice of the
suggestion, and finally asked: "Where's Mr. Daly's name?" "There it is,"
I told him, "on the top of the page." "That's all right," he said,
"that's where he always puts it; but I don't see the 'W' in his name,"
and he eyed me distrustfully. Finally, he asked, "Phwat do yez want to
see Mr. Daly for?" "Business." "Business?" "Yes." It was my only
hope. "Phwat kind--theatres?" that was too much. "No." "What kind of
shows, then?" "Bench-shows." It was risky, but I was desperate.
"Bench--shows, is it--where?" The big man's face changed, and he began to
look interested. "New Haven." "New Haven, it is? Ah, that's going to
be a fine show. I'm glad to see you. Did you see a big dog in the other
room?" "Yes." "How much do you think that dog weighs?" "One hundred
and forty-five pounds." "Look at that, now! He's a good judge of dogs,
and no mistake. He weighs all of one hundred and thirty-eight. Sit down
and shmoke--go on and shmoke your cigar, I'll tell Mr. Daly you are
here." In a few minutes I was on the stage shaking hands with Mr. Daly,
and the big man standing around glowing with satisfaction. "Come around
in front," said Mr. Daly, "and see the performance. I will put you into
my own box." And as I moved away I heard my honest friend mutter, "Well,
he desarves it."
THE DRESS OF CIVILIZED WOMAN
A large part of the daughter of civilization is her dress--as it should
be. Some civilized women would lose half their charm without dress, and
some would lose all of it. The daughter Of modern civilization dressed
at her utmost best is a marvel of exquisite and beautiful art and
expense. All the lands, all the climes, and all the arts are laid under
tribute to furnish her forth. Her linen is from Belfast, her robe is
from Paris, her lace is from Venice, or Spain, or France, her feathers
are from the remote regions of Southern Africa, her furs from the remoter
region of the iceberg and the aurora, her fan from Japan, her diamonds
from Brazil, her bracelets from California, her pearls from Ceylon, her
cameos from Rome. She has gems and trinkets from buried Pompeii, and
others that graced comely Egyptian forms that have been dust and ashes
now for forty centuries. Her watch is from Geneva, her card case is from
China, her hair is from--from--I don't know where her hair is from; I
never could find out; that is, her other hair--her public hair, her
Sunday hair; I don't mean the hair she goes to bed with.
And that reminds me of a trifle. Any time you want to you can glance
around the carpet of a Pullman car, and go and pick up a hair-pin; but
not to save your life can you get any woman in that car to acknowledge
that hair-pin. Now, isn't that strange? But it's true. The woman who
has never swerved from cast-iron veracity and fidelity in her whole life
will, when confronted with this crucial test, deny her hair-pin. She
will deny that hair-pin before a hundred witnesses. I have stupidly got
into more trouble and more hot water trying to hunt up the owner of a
hair-pin in a Pullman than by any other indiscretion of my life.
DRESS REFORM AND COPYRIGHT
When the present copyright law was under discussion, Mr.
Clemens appeared before the committee. He had sent Speaker
Cannon the following letter:
"DEAR UNCLE JOSEPH,--Please get me the thanks of Congress, not
next week but right away. It is very necessary. Do accomplish
this for your affectionate old friend right away--by,
persuasion if you can, by violence if you must, for it is
imperatively necessary that I get on the floor of the House for
two or three hours and talk to the members, man by man, in
behalf of support; encouragement, and protection of one of the
nation's most valuable assets and industries--its literature.
I have arguments with me--also a barrel with liquid in it.
"Give me a chance. Get me the thanks of Congress. Don't wait
for others--there isn't time; furnish them to me yourself and
let Congress ratify later. I have stayed away and let Congress
alone for seventy-one years and am entitled to the thanks.
Congress knows this perfectly well, and I have long felt hurt
that this quite proper and earned expression of gratitude has
been merely felt by the House and never publicly uttered.
"Send me an order on the sergeant-at-arms quick. When shall I
"With love and a benediction,
While waiting to appear before the committee, Mr. Clemens
talked to the reporters:
Why don't you ask why I am wearing such apparently unseasonable clothes?
I'll tell you. I have found that when a man reaches the advanced age of
seventy-one years, as I have, the continual sight of dark clothing is
likely to have a depressing effect upon him. Light-colored clothing is
more pleasing to the eye and enlivens the spirit. Now, of course, I
cannot compel every one to wear such clothing just for my especial
benefit, so I do the next best thing and wear it myself.
Of course, before a man reaches my years the fear of criticism might
prevent him from indulging his fancy. I am not afraid of that. I am
decidedly for pleasing color combinations in dress. I like to see the
women's clothes, say, at the opera. What can be more depressing than the
sombre black which custom requires men to wear upon state occasions?
A group of men in evening clothes looks like a flock of crows, and is
just about as inspiring.
After all, what is the purpose of clothing? Are not clothes intended
primarily to preserve dignity and also to afford comfort to their wearer?
Now I know of nothing more uncomfortable than the present-day clothes of
men. The finest clothing made is a person's own skin, but, of course,
society demands something more than this.
The best-dressed man I have ever seen, however, was a native of the
Sandwich Islands who attracted my attention thirty years ago. Now, when
that man wanted to don especial dress to honor a public occasion or a
holiday, why, he occasionally put on a pair of spectacles. Otherwise the
clothing with which God had provided him sufficed.
Of course, I have ideas of dress reform. For one thing, why not adopt
some of the women's styles? Goodness knows, they adopt enough of ours.
Take the peek-a-boo waist, for instance. It has the obvious advantages
of being cool and comfortable, and in addition it is almost always made
up in pleasing colors which cheer and do not depress.
It is true that I dressed the Connecticut Yankee at King Arthur's Court
in a plug-hat, but, let's see, that was twenty-five years ago. Then no
man was considered fully dressed until he donned a plug-hat. Nowadays I
think that no man is dressed until he leaves it home. Why, when I left
home yesterday they trotted out a plug-hat for me to wear.
"You must wear it," they told me; "why, just think of going to Washington
without a plug-hat!" But I said no; I would wear a derby or nothing.
Why, I believe I could walk along the streets of New York--I never do
--but still I think I could--and I should never see a well-dressed man
wearing a plug-hat. If I did I should suspect him of something. I don't
know just what, but I would suspect him.
Why, when I got up on the second story of that Pennsylvania ferry-boat
coming down here yesterday I saw Howells coming along. He was the only
man on the boat with a plug-hat, and I tell you he felt ashamed of
himself. He said he had been persuaded to wear it against his better
sense. But just think of a man nearly seventy years old who has not a
mind of his own on such matters!
"Are you doing any work now?" the youngest and most serious reporter
Work? I retired from work on my seventieth birthday. Since then I have
been putting in merely twenty-six hours a day dictating my autobiography,
which, as John Phoenix said in regard to his autograph, may be relied
upon as authentic, as it is written exclusively by me. But it is not to
be published in full until I am thoroughly dead. I have made it as
caustic, fiendish, and devilish as possible. It will fill many volumes,
and I shall continue writing it until the time comes for me to join the
angels. It is going to be a terrible autobiography. It will make the
hair of some folks curl. But it cannot be published until I am dead, and
the persons mentioned in it and their children and grandchildren are
dead. It is something awful!
"Can you tell us the names of some of the notables that are here to see
I don't know. I am so shy. My shyness takes a peculiar phase. I never
look a person in the face. The reason is that I am afraid they may know
me and that I may not know them, which makes it very embarrassing for
both of us. I always wait for the other person to speak. I know lots of
people, but I don't know who they are. It is all a matter of ability to
observe things. I never observe anything now. I gave up the habit years
ago. You should keep a habit up if you want to become proficient in it.
For instance, I was a pilot once, but I gave it up, and I do not believe
the captain of the Minneapolis would let me navigate his ship to London.
Still, if I think that he is not on the job I may go up on the bridge and
offer him a few suggestions.
Five hundred undergraduates, under the auspices of the Woman's
University Club, New York, welcomed Mr. Clemens as their guest,
April 3, 1906, and gave him the freedom of the club, which the
chairman explained was freedom to talk individually to any girl
I've worked for the public good thirty years, so for the rest of my life
I shall work for my personal contentment. I am glad Miss Neron has fed
me, for there is no telling what iniquity I might wander into on an empty
stomach--I mean, an empty mind.
I am going to tell you a practical story about how once upon a time I was
blind--a story I should have been using all these months, but I never
thought about telling it until the other night, and now it is too late,
for on the nineteenth of this month I hope to take formal leave of the
platform forever at Carnegie Hall--that is, take leave so far as talking
for money and for people who have paid money to hear me talk. I shall
continue to infest the platform on these conditions--that there is nobody
in the house who has paid to hear me, that I am not paid to be heard, and
that there will be none but young women students in the audience. [Here
Mr. Clemens told the story of how he took a girl to the theatre while he
was wearing tight boots, which appears elsewhere in this volume, and
ended by saying: "And now let this be a lesson to you--I don't know what
kind of a lesson; I'll let you think it out."]
In my capacity of publisher I recently received a manuscript from a
teacher which embodied a number of answers given by her pupils to
questions propounded. These answers show that the children had nothing
but the sound to go by--the sense was perfectly empty. Here are some of
their answers to words they were asked to define: Auriferous--pertaining
to an orifice; ammonia--the food of the gods; equestrian--one who asks
questions; parasite--a kind of umbrella; ipecaca--man who likes a good
dinner. And here is the definition of an ancient word honored by a great
party: Republican--a sinner mentioned in the Bible. And here is an
innocent deliverance of a zoological kind: "There are a good many donkeys
in the theological gardens." Here also is a definition which really
isn't very bad in its way: Demagogue--a vessel containing beer and other
liquids. Here, too, is a sample of a boy's composition on girls, which,
I must say, I rather like:
"Girls are very stuckup and dignified in their manner and behaveyour.
They think more of dress than anything and like to play with dowls and
rags. They cry if they see a cow in a far distance and are afraid of
guns. They stay at home all the time and go to church every Sunday.
They are al-ways sick. They are al-ways furry and making fun of boys
hands and they say how dirty. They cant play marbles. I pity them poor
things. They make fun of boys and then turn round and love them.
I don't belave they ever kiled a cat or anything. They look out every
nite and say, 'Oh, a'nt the moon lovely!'--Thir is one thing I have not
told and that is they al-ways now their lessons bettern boys."
DELIVERED AT THE ANNIVERSARY FESTIVAL, 1872, OF THE SCOTTISH
CORPORATION OF LONDON
Mr. Clemens replied to the toast "The Ladies."
I am proud, indeed, of the distinction of being chosen to respond to this
especial toast, to "The Ladies," or to women if you please, for that is
the preferable term, perhaps; it is certainly the older, and therefore
the more entitled to reverence. I have noticed that the Bible, with that
plain, blunt honesty which is such a conspicuous characteristic of the
Scriptures, is always particular to never refer to even the illustrious
mother of all mankind as a "lady," but speaks of her as a woman. It is
odd, but you will find it is so. I am peculiarly proud of this honor,
because I think that the toast to women is one which, by right and by
every rule of gallantry, should take precedence of all others--of the
army, of the navy, of even royalty itself--perhaps, though the latter is
not necessary in this day and in this land, for the reason that, tacitly,
you do drink a broad general health to all good women when you drink the
health of the Queen of England and the Princess of Wales. I have in mind
a poem just now which is familiar to you all, familiar to everybody. And
what an inspiration that was, and how instantly the present toast recalls
the verses to all our minds when the most noble, the most gracious, the
purest, and sweetest of all poets says:
"Woman! O woman!---er
However, you remember the lines; and you remember how feelingly, how
daintily, how almost imperceptibly the verses raise up before you,
feature by feature, the ideal of a true and perfect woman; and how, as
you contemplate the finished marvel, your homage grows into worship of
the intellect that could create so fair a thing out of mere breath, mere
words. And you call to mind now, as I speak, how the poet, with stern
fidelity to the history of all humanity, delivers this beautiful child of
his heart and his brain over to the trials and sorrows that must come to
all, sooner or later, that abide in the earth, and how the pathetic story
culminates in that apostrophe--so wild, so regretful, so full of mournful
retrospection. The lines run thus:
--and so on. I do not remember the rest; but, taken together, it seems
to me that poem is the noblest tribute to woman that human genius has
ever brought forth--and I feel that if I were to talk hours I could not
do my great theme completer or more graceful justice than I have now done
in simply quoting that poet's matchless words. The phases of the womanly
nature are infinite in their variety. Take any type of woman, and you
shall find in it something to respect, something to admire, something to
love. And you shall find the whole joining you heart and hand. Who was
more patriotic than Joan of Arc? Who was braver? Who has given us a
grander instance of self-sacrificing devotion? Ah! you remember, you
remember well, what a throb of pain, what a great tidal wave of grief
swept over us all when Joan of Arc fell at Waterloo. Who does not sorrow
for the loss of Sappho, the sweet singer of Israel? Who among us does
not miss the gentle ministrations, the softening influences, the humble
piety of Lucretia Borgia? Who can join in the heartless libel that says
woman is extravagant in dress when he can look back and call to mind our
simple and lowly mother Eve arrayed in her modification of the Highland
costume? Sir, women have been soldiers, women have been painters, women
have been poets. As long as language lives the name of Cleopatra will
live. And not because she conquered George III.--but because she wrote
those divine lines:
"Let dogs delight to bark and bite,
For God hath made them so."
The story of the world is adorned with the names of illustrious ones of
our own sex--some of, them sons of St. Andrew, too--Scott, Bruce, Burns,
the warrior Wallace, Ben Nevis--the gifted Ben Lomond, and the great new
Scotchman, Ben Disraeli.--[Mr. Benjamin Disraeli, at that time Prime
Minister of England, had just been elected Lord Rector of Glasgow
University, and had made a speech which gave rise to a world of
discussion]--Out of the great plains of history tower whole mountain
ranges of sublime women: the Queen of Sheba, Josephine, Semiramis, Sairey
Gamp; the list is endless--but I will not call the mighty roll, the names
rise up in your own memories at the mere suggestion, luminous with the
glory of deeds that cannot die, hallowed by the loving worship of the
good and the true of all epochs and all climes. Suffice it for our pride
and our honor that we in our day have added to it such names as those of
Grace Darling and Florence Nightingale. Woman is all that she should be
gentle, patient, longsuffering, trustful, unselfish, full of generous
impulses. It is her blessed mission to comfort the sorrowing, plead for
the erring, encourage the faint of purpose, succor the distressed, uplift
the fallen, befriend the friendless--in a word, afford the healing of her
sympathies and a home in her heart for all the bruised and persecuted
children that knock at its hospitable door. And when I say, God bless
her, there is none among us who has known the ennobling affection of a
wife, or the steadfast devotion of a mother but in his heart will say,
WOMAN'S PRESS CLUB
On October 27, 1900, the New York Woman's Press Club gave a tea
in Carnegie Hall. Mr. Clemens was the guest of honor.
If I were asked an opinion I would call this an ungrammatical nation.
There is no such thing as perfect grammar, and I don't always speak good
grammar myself. But I have been foregathering for the past few days with
professors of American universities, and I've heard them all say things
like this: "He don't like to do it." [There was a stir.] Oh, you'll hear
that to-night if you listen, or, "He would have liked to have done it."
You'll catch some educated Americans saying that. When these men take
pen in hand they write with as good grammar as any. But the moment they
throw the pen aside they throw grammatical morals aside with it.
To illustrate the desirability and possibility of concentration, I must
tell you a story of my little six-year-old daughter. The governess had
been teaching her about the reindeer, and, as the custom was, she related
it to the family. She reduced the history of that reindeer to two or
three sentences when the governess could not have put it into a page.
She said: "The reindeer is a very swift animal. A reindeer once drew a
sled four hundred miles in two hours." She appended the comment: "This
was regarded as extraordinary." And concluded: "When that reindeer was
done drawing that sled four hundred miles in two hours it died."
As a final instance of the force of limitations in the development of
concentration, I must mention that beautiful creature, Helen Keller, whom
I have known for these many years. I am filled with the wonder of her
knowledge, acquired because shut out from all distraction. If I could
have been deaf, dumb, and blind I also might have arrived at something.
VOTES FOR WOMEN
AT THE ANNUAL MEETING OF THE HEBREW TECHNICAL SCHOOL FOR GIRLS,
HELD IN THE TEMPLE EMMANUEL, JANUARY 20, 1901
Mr. Clemens was introduced by President Meyer, who said: "In
one of Mr. Clemens's works he expressed his opinion of men,
saying he had no choice between Hebrew and Gentile, black men
or white; to him all men were alike. But I never could find
that he expressed his opinion of women; perhaps that opinion
was so exalted that he could not express it. We shall now be
called to hear what he thinks of women."
LADIES AND GENTLEMEN,--It is a small help that I can afford, but it is
just such help that one can give as coming from the heart through the
mouth. The report of Mr. Meyer was admirable, and I was as interested in
it as you have been. Why, I'm twice as old as he, and I've had so much
experience that I would say to him, when he makes his appeal for help:
"Don't make it for to-day or to-morrow, but collect the money on the
We are all creatures of sudden impulse. We must be worked up by steam,
as it were. Get them to write their wills now, or it may be too late by
-and-by. Fifteen or twenty years ago I had an experience I shall never
forget. I got into a church which was crowded by a sweltering and
panting multitude. The city missionary of our town--Hartford--made a
telling appeal for help. He told of personal experiences among the poor
in cellars and top lofts requiring instances of devotion and help. The
poor are always good to the poor. When a person with his millions gives
a hundred thousand dollars it makes a great noise in the world, but he
does not miss it; it's the widow's mite that makes no noise but does the
I remember on that occasion in the Hartford church the collection was
being taken up. The appeal had so stirred me that I could hardly wait
for the hat or plate to come my way. I had four hundred dollars in my
pocket, and I was anxious to drop it in the plate and wanted to borrow
more. But the plate was so long in coming my way that the fever-heat of
beneficence was going down lower and lower--going down at the rate of a
hundred dollars a minute. The plate was passed too late. When it
finally came to me, my enthusiasm had gone down so much that I kept my
four hundred dollars--and stole a dime from the plate. So, you see, time
sometimes leads to crime.
Oh, many a time have I thought of that and regretted it, and I adjure you
all to give while the fever is on you.
Referring to woman's sphere in life, I'll say that woman is always right.
For twenty-five years I've been a woman's rights man. I have always
believed, long before my mother died, that, with her gray hairs and
admirable intellect, perhaps she knew as much as I did. Perhaps she knew
as much about voting as I.
I should like to see the time come when women shall help to make the
laws. I should like to see that whip-lash, the ballot, in the hands of
women. As for this city's government, I don't want to say much, except
that it is a shame--a shame; but if I should live twenty-five years
longer--and there is no reason why I shouldn't--I think I'll see women
handle the ballot. If women had the ballot to-day, the state of things
in this town would not exist.
If all the women in this town had a vote to-day they would elect a mayor
at the next election, and they would rise in their might and change the
awful state of things now existing here.
ADDRESS AT AN EARLY BANQUET OF THE WASHINGTON
The twelfth toast was as follows: "Woman--The pride of any
profession, and the jewel of ours."
MR. PRESIDENT,--I do not know why I should be singled out to receive the
greatest distinction of the evening--for so the office of replying to the
toast of woman has been regarded in every age. I do not know why I have
received his distinction, unless it be that I am a trifle less homely
than the other members of the club. But be this as it may, Mr.
President, I am proud of the position, and you could not have chosen any
one who would have accepted it more gladly, or labored with a heartier
good-will to do the subject justice than I--because, sir, I love the sex.
I love all the women, irrespective of age or color.
Human intellect cannot estimate what we owe to woman, sir. She sews on
our buttons; she mends our clothes; she ropes us in at the church fairs;
she confides in us; she tells us whatever she can find out about the
little private affairs of the neighbors; she gives us good advice, and
plenty of it; she soothes our aching brows; she bears our children--ours
as a general thing. In all relations of life, sir, it is but a just and
graceful tribute to woman to say of her that she is a brick.
Wheresoever you place woman, sir--in whatever position or estate--she is
an ornament to the place she occupies, and a treasure to the world. [Here
Mr. Clemens paused, looked inquiringly at his hearers, and remarked that
the applause should come in at this point. It came in. He resumed his
eulogy.] Look at Cleopatra! look at Desdemona!--look at Florence
Nightingale!--look at Joan of Arc!--look at Lucretia Borgia!
[Disapprobation expressed.] Well [said Mr. Clemens, scratching his head,
doubtfully], suppose we let Lucretia slide. Look at Joyce Heth!--look at
Mother Eve! You need not look at her unless you want to, but [said Mr.
Clemens, reflectively, after a pause] Eve was ornamental, sir
--particularly before the fashions changed. I repeat, sir, look at the
illustrious names of history. Look at the Widow Machree!--look at Lucy
Stone!--look at Elizabeth Cady Stanton!--look at George Francis Train!
And, sir, I say it with bowed head and deepest veneration--look at the
mother of Washington! She raised a boy that could not tell a lie--could
not tell a lie! But he never had any chance. It might have been
different if he had belonged to the Washington Newspaper Correspondents'
I repeat, sir, that in whatever position you place a woman she is an
ornament to society and a treasure to the world. As a sweetheart, she
has few equals and no superiors; as a cousin, she is convenient; as a
wealthy grandmother with an incurable distemper, she is precious; as a
wetnurse, she has no equal among men.
What, sir, would the people of the earth be without woman? They would be
scarce, sir, almighty scarce. Then let us cherish her; let us protect
her; let us give her our support, our encouragement, our sympathy,
ourselves--if we get a chance.
But, jesting aside, Mr. President, woman is lovable, gracious, kind of
heart, beautiful--worthy of all respect, of all esteem, of all deference.
Not any here will refuse to drink her health right cordially in this
bumper of wine, for each and every one has personally known, and loved,
and honored the very best one of them all--his own mother.
ADVICE TO GIRLS
In 1907 a young girl whom Mr. Clemens met on the steamer
Minnehaha called him "grandpa," and he called her his
granddaughter. She was attending St. Timothy's School, at
Catonsville, Maryland, and Mr. Clemens promised her to see her
graduate. He accordingly made the journey from New York on
June 10, 1909, and delivered a short address.
I don't know what to tell you girls to do. Mr. Martin has told you
everything you ought to do, and now I must give you some don'ts.
There are three things which come to my mind which I consider excellent
First, girls, don't smoke--that is, don't smoke to excess. I am
seventy-three and a half years old, and have been smoking seventy-three
of them. But I never smoke to excess--that is, I smoke in moderation,
only one cigar at a time.
Second, don't drink--that is, don't drink to excess.
Third, don't marry--I mean, to excess.
Honesty is the best policy. That is an old proverb; but you don't want
ever to forget it in your journey through life.
TAXES AND MORALS
ADDRESS DELIVERED IN NEW YORK, JANUARY 22, 1906
At the twenty-fifth anniversary of the founding of Tuskeegee
Institute by Booker Washington, Mr. Choate presided, and in
introducing Mr. Clemens made fun of him because he made play
his work, and that when he worked hardest he did so lying in
I came here in the responsible capacity of policeman to watch Mr. Choate.
This is an occasion of grave and serious importance, and it seems
necessary for me to be present, so that if he tried to work off any
statement that required correction, reduction, refutation, or exposure,
there would be a tried friend of the public to protect the house. He has
not made one statement whose veracity fails to tally exactly with my own
standard. I have never seen a person improve so. This makes me thankful
and proud of a country that can produce such men--two such men. And all
in the same country. We can't be with you always; we are passing away,
and then--well, everything will have to stop, I reckon. It is a sad
thought. But in spirit I shall still be with you. Choate, too--if he
Every born American among the eighty millions, let his creed or
destitution of creed be what it may, is indisputably a Christian--to this
degree that his moral constitution is Christian.
There are two kinds of Christian morals, one private and the other
public. These two are so distinct, so unrelated, that they are no more
akin to each other than are archangels and politicians. During three
hundred and sixty-three days in the year the American citizen is true to
his Christian private morals, and keeps undefiled the nation's character
at its best and highest; then in the other two days of the year he leaves
his Christian private morals at home and carries his Christian public
morals to the tax office and the polls, and does the best he can to
damage and undo his whole year's faithful and righteous work. Without a
blush he will vote for an unclean boss if that boss is his party's Moses,
without compunction he will vote against the best man in the whole land
if he is on the other ticket. Every year in a number of cities and
States he helps put corrupt men in office, whereas if he would but throw
away his Christian public morals, and carry his Christian private morals
to the polls, he could promptly purify the public service and make the
possession of office a high and honorable distinction.
Once a year he lays aside his Christian private morals and hires a
ferry-boat and piles up his bonds in a warehouse in New Jersey for three
days, and gets out his Christian public morals and goes to the tax office
and holds up his hands and swears he wishes he may never--never if he's
got a cent in the world, so help him. The next day the list appears in
the papers--a column and a quarter of names, in fine print, and every man
in the list a billionaire and member of a couple of churches. I know all
those people. I have friendly, social, and criminal relations with the
whole lot of them. They never miss a sermon when they are so's to be
around, and they never miss swearing-off day, whether they are so's to be
around or not.
I used to be an honest man. I am crumbling. No--I have crumbled. When
they assessed me at $75,000 a fortnight ago I went out and tried to
borrow the money, and couldn't; then when I found they were letting a
whole crop of millionaires live in New York at a third of the price they
were charging me I was hurt, I was indignant, and said: "This is the last
feather. I am not going to run this town all by myself." In that
moment--in that memorable moment--I began to crumble. In fifteen minutes
the disintegration was complete. In fifteen minutes I had become just a
mere moral sand-pile; and I lifted up my hand along with those seasoned
and experienced deacons and swore off every rag of personal property I've
got in the world, clear down to cork leg, glass eye, and what is left of
Those tax officers were moved; they were profoundly moved. They had long
been accustomed to seeing hardened old grafters act like that, and they
could endure the spectacle; but they were expecting better things of me,
a chartered, professional moralist, and they were saddened.
I fell visibly in their respect and esteem, and I should have fallen in
my own, except that I had already struck bottom, and there wasn't any
place to fall to.
At Tuskeegee they will jump to misleading conclusions from insufficient
evidence, along with Doctor Parkhurst, and they will deceive the student
with the superstition that no gentleman ever swears.
Look at those good millionaires; aren't they gentlemen? Well, they
swear. Only once in a year, maybe, but there's enough bulk to it to make
up for the lost time. And do they lose anything by it? No, they don't;
they save enough in three minutes to support the family seven years.
When they swear, do we shudder? No--unless they say "damn!" Then we do.
It shrivels us all up. Yet we ought not to feel so about it, because we
all swear--everybody. Including the ladies. Including Doctor Parkhurst,
that strong and brave and excellent citizen, but superficially educated.
For it is not the word that is the sin, it is the spirit back of the
word. When an irritated lady says "oh!" the spirit back of it is "damn!"
and that is the way it is going to be recorded against her. It always
makes me so sorry when I hear a lady swear like that. But if she says
"damn," and says it in an amiable, nice way, it isn't going to be
recorded at all.
The idea that no gentleman ever swears is all wrong; he can swear and
still be a gentleman if he does it in a nice and, benevolent and
affectionate way. The historian, John Fiske, whom I knew well and loved,
was a spotless and most noble and upright Christian gentleman, and yet he
swore once. Not exactly that, maybe; still, he--but I will tell you
One day, when he was deeply immersed in his work, his wife came in, much
moved and profoundly distressed, and said: "I am sorry to disturb you,
John, but I must, for this is a serious matter, and needs to be attended
to at once."
Then, lamenting, she brought a grave accusation against their little son.
She said: "He has been saying his Aunt Mary is a fool and his Aunt Martha
is a damned fool." Mr. Fiske reflected upon the matter a minute, then
said: "Oh, well, it's about the distinction I should make between them
Mr. Washington, I beg you to convey these teachings to your great and
prosperous and most beneficent educational institution, and add them to
the prodigal mental and moral riches wherewith you equip your fortunate
proteges for the struggle of life.
TAMMANY AND CROKER
Mr. Clemens made his debut as a campaign orator on October 7,
1901, advocating the election of Seth Low for Mayor, not as a
Republican, but as a member of the "Acorns," which he described
as a "third party having no political affiliation, but was
concerned only in the selection of the best candidates and the
Great Britain had a Tammany and a Croker a good while ago. This Tammany
was in India, and it began its career with the spread of the English
dominion after the Battle of Plassey. Its first boss was Clive, a
sufficiently crooked person sometimes, but straight as a yard stick
when compared with the corkscrew crookedness of the second boss, Warren
That old-time Tammany was the East India Company's government, and had
its headquarters at Calcutta. Ostensibly it consisted of a Great Council
of four persons, of whom one was the Governor-General, Warren Hastings;
really it consisted of one person--Warren Hastings; for by usurpation he
concentrated all authority in himself and governed the country like an
Ostensibly the Court of Directors, sitting in London and representing the
vast interests of the stockholders, was supreme in authority over the
Calcutta Great Council, whose membership it appointed and removed at
pleasure, whose policies it dictated, and to whom it conveyed its will in
the form of sovereign commands; but whenever it suited Hastings, he
ignored even that august body's authority and conducted the mighty
affairs of the British Empire in India to suit his own notions.
At his mercy was the daily bread of every official, every trader, every
clerk, every civil servant, big and little, in the whole huge India
Company's machine, and the man who hazarded his bread by any failure of
subserviency to the boss lost it.
Now then, let the supreme masters of British India, the giant corporation
of the India Company of London, stand for the voters of the city of New
York; let the Great Council of Calcutta stand for Tammany; let the
corrupt and money-grubbing great hive of serfs which served under the
Indian Tammany's rod stand for New York Tammany's serfs; let Warren
Hastings stand for Richard Croker, and it seems to me that the parallel
is exact and complete. And so let us be properly grateful and thank God
and our good luck that we didn't invent Tammany.
Edmund Burke, regarded by many as the greatest orator of all times,
conducted the case against Warren Hastings in that renowned trial which
lasted years, and which promises to keep its renown for centuries to
come. I wish to quote some of the things he said. I wish to imagine him
arraigning Mr. Croker and Tammany before the voters of New York City and
pleading with them for the overthrow of that combined iniquity of the 5th
of November, and will substitute for "My Lords," read "Fellow-Citizens";
for "Kingdom," read "City"; for "Parliamentary Process," read "Political
Campaign"; for "Two Houses," read "Two Parties," and so it reads:
"Fellow--citizens, I must look upon it as an auspicious circumstance to
this cause, in which the honor of the city is involved, that from the
first commencement of our political campaign to this the hour of solemn
trial not the smallest difference of opinion has arisen, between the two
"You will see, in the progress of this cause, that there is not only a
long, connected, systematic series of misdemeanors, but an equally
connected system of maxims and principles invented to justify them.
Upon both of these you must judge.
"It is not only the interest of the city of New York, now the most
considerable part of the city of the Americans, which is concerned, but
the credit and honor of the nation itself will be decided by this
At a later meeting of the Acorn Club, Mr. Clemens said:
Tammany is dead, and there's no use in blackguarding a corpse.
The election makes me think of a story of a man who was dying. He had
only two minutes to live, so he sent for a clergyman and asked him,
"Where is the best place to go to?" He was undecided about it. So the
minister told him that each place had its advantages--heaven for climate,
and hell for society.
ADDRESS AT THE CITY CLUB DINNER, JANUARY 4,1901
Bishop Potter told how an alleged representative of Tammany
Hall asked him in effect if he would cease his warfare upon the
Police Department if a certain captain and inspector were
dismissed. He replied that he would never be satisfied until
the "man at the top" and the "system" which permitted evils in
the Police Department were crushed.
The Bishop has just spoken of a condition of things which none of us can
deny, and which ought not to exist; that is, the lust of gain--a lust
which does not stop short of the penitentiary or the jail to accomplish
its ends. But we may be sure of one thing, and that is that this sort of
thing is not universal. If it were, this country would not be. You may
put this down as a fact: that out of every fifty men, forty-nine are
clean. Then why is it, you may ask, that the forty-nine don't have
things the way they want them? I'll tell you why it is. A good deal has
been said here to-night about what is to be accomplished by organization.
That's just the thing. It's because the fiftieth fellow and his pals are
organized and the other forty-nine are not that the dirty one rubs it
into the clean fellows every time.
You may say organize, organize, organize; but there may be so much
organization that it will interfere with the work to be done. The Bishop
here had an experience of that sort, and told all about it down-town the
other night. He was painting a barn--it was his own barn--and yet he was
informed that his work must stop; he was a non-union painter, and
couldn't continue at that sort of job.
Now, all these conditions of which you complain should be remedied, and I
am here to tell you just how to do it. I've been a statesman without
salary for many years, and I have accomplished great and widespread good.
I don't know that it has benefited anybody very much, even if it was
good; but I do know that it hasn't harmed me very much, and is hasn't
made me any richer.
We hold the balance of power. Put up your best men for office, and we
shall support the better one. With the election of the best man for
Mayor would follow the selection of the best man for Police Commissioner
and Chief of Police.
My first lesson in the craft of statesmanship was taken at an early age.
Fifty-one years ago I was fourteen years old, and we had a society in the
town I lived in, patterned after the Freemasons, or the Ancient Order of
United Farmers, or some such thing--just what it was patterned after
doesn't matter. It had an inside guard and an outside guard, and a
past-grand warden, and a lot of such things, so as to give dignity to the
organization and offices to the members.
Generally speaking it was a pretty good sort of organization, and some of
the very best boys in the village, including--but I mustn't get personal
on an occasion like this--and the society would have got along pretty
well had it not been for the fact that there were a certain number of the
members who could be bought. They got to be an infernal nuisance. Every
time we had an election the candidates had to go around and see the
purchasable members. The price per vote was paid in doughnuts, and it
depended somewhat on the appetites of the individuals as to the price
of the votes.
This thing ran along until some of us, the really very best boys in the
organization, decided that these corrupt practices must stop, and for the
purpose of stopping them we organized a third party. We had a name, but
we were never known by that name. Those who didn't like us called us the
Anti-Doughnut party, but we didn't mind that.
We said: "Call us what you please; the name doesn't matter. We are
organized for a principle." By-and-by the election came around, and
we made a big mistake. We were triumphantly beaten. That taught us a
lesson. Then and there we decided never again to nominate anybody for
anything. We decided simply to force the other two parties in the
society to nominate their very best men. Although we were organized for
a principle, we didn't care much about that. Principles aren't of much
account anyway, except at election-time. After that you hang them up to
let them season.
The next time we had an election we told both the other parties that we'd
beat any candidates put up by any one of them of whom we didn't approve.
In that election we did business. We got the man we wanted. I suppose
they called us the Anti-Doughnut party because they couldn't buy us with
their doughnuts. They didn't have enough of them. Most reformers arrive
at their price sooner or later, and I suppose we would have had our
price; but our opponents weren't offering anything but doughnuts, and
those we spurned.
Now it seems to me that an Anti-Doughnut party is just what is wanted in
the present emergency. I would have the Anti-Doughnuts felt in every city
and hamlet and school district in this State and in the United States.
I was an Anti-Doughnut in my boyhood, and I'm an Anti-Doughnut still.
The modern designation is Mugwump. There used to be quite a number of us
Mugwumps, but I think I'm the only one left. I had a vote this fall, and
I began to make some inquiries as to what I had better do with it.
I don't know anything about finance, and I never did, but I know some
pretty shrewd financiers, and they told me that Mr. Bryan wasn't safe on
any financial question. I said to myself, then, that it wouldn't do for
me to vote for Bryan, and I rather thought--I know now--that McKinley
wasn't just right on this Philippine question, and so I just didn't vote
for anybody. I've got that vote yet, and I've kept it clean, ready to
deposit at some other election. It wasn't cast for any wildcat financial
theories, and it wasn't cast to support the man who sends our boys as
volunteers out into the Philippines to get shot down under a polluted
ADDRESS AT THE ANNUAL DINNER OF THE ST. NICHOLAS SOCIETY, NEW YORK,
DECEMBER 6, 1900.
Doctor Mackay, in his response to the toast "St. Nicholas,"
referred to Mr. Clemens, saying:--"Mark Twain is as true a
preacher of true righteousness as any bishop, priest, or
minister of any church to-day, because he moves men to forget
their faults by cheerful well-doing instead of making them sour
and morbid by everlastingly bending their attention to the
seamy and sober side of life."
MR. CHAIRMAN AND GENTLEMEN OF THE ST. NICHOLAS SOCIETY,--These are,
indeed, prosperous days for me. Night before last, in a speech, the
Bishop of the Diocese of New York complimented me for my contribution to
theology, and to-night the Reverend Doctor Mackay has elected me to the
ministry. I thanked Bishop Potter then for his compliment, and I thank
Doctor Mackay now for that promotion. I think that both have discerned
in me what I long ago discerned, but what I was afraid the world would
never learn to recognize.
In this absence of nine years I find a great improvement in the city of
New York. I am glad to speak on that as a toast--"The City of New York."
Some say it has improved because I have been away. Others, and I agree
with them, say it has improved because I have come back. We must judge
of a city, as of a man, by its external appearances and by its inward
character. In externals the foreigner coming to these shores is more
impressed at first by our sky-scrapers. They are new to him. He has not
done anything of the sort since he built the tower of Babel. The
foreigner is shocked by them.
In the daylight they are ugly. They are--well, too chimneyfied and too
snaggy--like a mouth that needs attention from a dentist; like a cemetery
that is all monuments and no gravestones. But at night, seen from the
river where they are columns towering against the sky, all sparkling with
light, they are fairylike; they are beauty more satisfactory to the soul
and more enchanting than anything that man has dreamed of since the
Arabian nights. We can't always have the beautiful aspect of things.
Let us make the most of our sights that are beautiful and let the others
go. When your foreigner makes disagreeable comments on New York by
daylight, float him down the river at night.
What has made these sky-scrapers possible is the elevator. The cigar-box
which the European calls a "lift" needs but to be compared with our
elevators to be appreciated. The lift stops to reflect between floors.
That is all right in a hearse, but not in elevators. The American
elevator acts like the man's patent purge--it worked. As the inventor
said, "This purge doesn't waste any time fooling around; it attends
strictly to business."
That New-Yorkers have the cleanest, quickest, and most admirable system
of street railways in the world has been forced upon you by the abnormal
appreciation you have of your hackman. We ought always to be grateful to
him for that service. Nobody else would have brought such a system into
existence for us. We ought to build him a monument. We owe him one as
much as we owe one to anybody. Let it be a tall one. Nothing permanent,
of course; build it of plaster, say. Then gaze at it and realize how
grateful we are--for the time being--and then pull it down and throw it
on the ash-heap. That's the way to honor your public heroes.
As to our streets, I find them cleaner than they used to be. I miss
those dear old landmarks, the symmetrical mountain ranges of dust and
dirt that used to be piled up along the streets for the wind and rain to
tear down at their pleasure. Yes, New York is cleaner than Bombay.
I realize that I have been in Bombay, that I now am in New York; that it
is not my duty to flatter Bombay, but rather to flatter New York.
Compared with the wretched attempts of London to light that city, New
York may fairly be said to be a well-lighted city. Why, London's attempt
at good lighting is almost as bad as London's attempt at rapid transit.
There is just one good system of rapid transit in London--the "Tube," and
that, of course, had been put in by Americans. Perhaps, after a while,
those Americans will come back and give New York also a good underground
system. Perhaps they have already begun. I have been so busy since I
came back that I haven't had time as yet to go down cellar.
But it is by the laws of the city, it is by the manners of the city, it
is by the ideals of the city, it is by the customs of the city and by the
municipal government which all these elements correct, support, and
foster, by which the foreigner judges the city. It is by these that he
realizes that New York may, indeed, hold her head high among the cities
of the world. It is by these standards that he knows whether to class
the city higher or lower than the other municipalities of the world.
Gentlemen, you have the best municipal government in the world--the
purest and the most fragrant. The very angels envy you, and wish
they could establish a government like it in heaven. You got it by a
noble fidelity to civic duty. You got it by stern and ever-watchful
exertion of the great powers with which you are charged by the rights
which were handed down to you by your forefathers, by your manly refusal
to let base men invade the high places of your government, and by instant
retaliation when any public officer has insulted you in the city's name
by swerving in the slightest from the upright and full performance of his
duty. It is you who have made this city the envy of the cities of the
world. God will bless you for it--God will bless you for it. Why, when
you approach the final resting-place the angels of heaven will gather at
the gates and cry out:
"Here they come! Show them to the archangel's box, and turn the
lime-light on them!"
CHINA AND THE PHILIPPINES
AT A DINNER GIVEN IN THE WALDORF-ASTORIA HOTEL, DECEMBER, 1900
Winston Spencer Churchill was introduced by Mr. Clemens.
For years I've been a self-appointed missionary to bring about the union
of America and the motherland. They ought to be united. Behold America,
the refuge of the oppressed from everywhere (who can pay fifty dollars'
admission)--any one except a Chinaman--standing up for human rights
everywhere, even helping China let people in free when she wants to
collect fifty dollars upon them. And how unselfishly England has wrought
for the open door for all! And how piously America has wrought for that
open door in all cases where it was not her own!
Yes, as a missionary I've sung my songs of praise. And yet I think that
England sinned when she got herself into a war in South Africa which she
could have avoided, just as we sinned in getting into a similar war in
the Philippines. Mr. Churchill, by his father, is an Englishman; by his
mother he is an American--no doubt a blend that makes the perfect man.
England and America; yes, we are kin. And now that we are also kin in
sin, there is nothing more to be desired. The harmony is complete, the
blend is perfect.
The New Vagabonds Club of London, made up of the leading
younger literary men of the day, gave a dinner in honor of Mr.
and Mrs. Clemens, July 8, 1899.
It has always been difficult--leave that word difficult--not exceedingly
difficult, but just difficult, nothing more than that, not the slightest
shade to add to that--just difficult--to respond properly, in the right
phraseology, when compliments are paid to me; but it is more than
difficult when the compliments are paid to a better than I--my wife.
And while I am not here to testify against myself--I can't be expected to
do so, a prisoner in your own country is not admitted to do so--as to
which member of the family wrote my books, I could say in general that
really I wrote the books myself. My wife puts the facts in, and they
make it respectable. My modesty won't suffer while compliments are being
paid to literature, and through literature to my family. I can't get
enough of them.
I am curiously situated to-night. It so rarely happens that I am
introduced by a humorist; I am generally introduced by a person of grave
walk and carriage. That makes the proper background of gravity for
brightness. I am going to alter to suit, and haply I may say some
When you start with a blaze of sunshine and upburst of humor, when you
begin with that, the proper office of humor is to reflect, to put you
into that pensive mood of deep thought, to make you think of your sins,
if you wish half an hour to fly. Humor makes me reflect now to-night, it
sets the thinking machinery in motion. Always, when I am thinking, there
come suggestions of what I am, and what we all are, and what we are
coming to. A sermon comes from my lips always when I listen to a
I seize the opportunity to throw away frivolities, to say something to
plant the seed, and make all better than when I came. In Mr. Grossmith's
remarks there was a subtle something suggesting my favorite theory of the
difference between theoretical morals and practical morals. I try to
instil practical morals in the place of theatrical--I mean theoretical;
but as an addendum--an annex--something added to theoretical morals.
When your chairman said it was the first time he had ever taken the
chair, he did not mean that he had not taken lots of other things; he
attended my first lecture and took notes. This indicated the man's
disposition. There was nothing else flying round, so he took notes; he
would have taken anything he could get.
I can bring a moral to bear here which shows the difference between
theoretical morals and practical morals. Theoretical morals are the sort
you get on your mother's knee, in good books, and from the pulpit. You
gather them in your head, and not in your heart; they are theory without
practice. Without the assistance of practice to perfect them, it is
difficult to teach a child to "be honest, don't steal."
I will teach you how it should be done, lead you into temptation, teach
you how to steal, so that you may recognize when you have stolen and feel
the proper pangs. It is no good going round and bragging you have never
taken the chair.
As by the fires of experience, so by commission of crime, you learn real
morals. Commit all the crimes, familiarize yourself with all sins, take
them in rotation (there are only two or three thousand of them), stick to
it, commit two or three every day, and by-and-by you will be proof
against them. When you are through you will be proof against all sins
and morally perfect. You will be vaccinated against every possible
commission of them. This is the only way.
I will read you a written statement upon the subject that I wrote three
years ago to read to the Sabbath-schools. [Here the lecturer turned his
pockets out, but without success.] No! I have left it at home. Still,
it was a mere statement of fact, illustrating the value of practical
morals produced by the commission of crime.
It was in my boyhood just a statement of fact, reading is only more
formal, merely facts, merely pathetic facts, which I can state so as to
be understood. It relates to the first time I ever stole a watermelon;
that is, I think it was the first time; anyway, it was right along there
I stole it out of a farmer's wagon while he was waiting on another
customer. "Stole" is a harsh term. I withdrew--I retired that
watermelon. I carried it to a secluded corner of a lumber-yard. I broke
it open. It was green--the greenest watermelon raised in the valley that
The minute I saw it was green I was sorry, and began to reflect
--reflection is the beginning of reform. If you don't reflect when you
commit a crime then that crime is of no use; it might just as well have
been committed by some one else: You must reflect or the value is lost;
you are not vaccinated against committing it again.
I began to reflect. I said to myself: "What ought a boy to do who has
stolen a green watermelon? What would George Washington do, the father
of his country, the only American who could not tell a lie? What would
he do? There is only one right, high, noble thing for any boy to do who
has stolen a watermelon of that class he must make restitution; he must
restore that stolen property to its rightful owner." I said I would do
it when I made that good resolution. I felt it to be a noble, uplifting
obligation. I rose up spiritually stronger and refreshed. I carried
that watermelon back--what was left of it--and restored it to the farmer,
and made him give me a ripe one in its place.
Now you see that this constant impact of crime upon crime protects you
against further commission of crime. It builds you up. A man can't
become morally perfect by stealing one or a thousand green watermelons,
but every little helps.
I was at a great school yesterday (St. Paul's), where for four hundred
years they have been busy with brains, and building up England by
producing Pepys, Miltons, and Marlboroughs. Six hundred boys left to
nothing in the world but theoretical morality. I wanted to become the
professor of practical morality, but the high master was away, so I
suppose I shall have to go on making my living the same old way--by
adding practical to theoretical morality.
What are the glory that was Greece, the grandeur that was Rome, compared
to the glory and grandeur and majesty of a perfected morality such as you
see before you?
The New Vagabonds are old vagabonds (undergoing the old sort of reform).
You drank my health; I hope I have not been unuseful. Take this system
of morality to your hearts. Take it home to your neighbors and your
graves, and I hope that it will be a long time before you arrive there.
The Young Men's Christian Association asked Mr. Clemens to
deliver a lay sermon at the Majestic Theatre, New York, March
4, 1906. More than five thousand young men tried to get into
the theatre, and in a short time traffic was practically
stopped in the adjacent streets. The police reserves had to be
called out to thin the crowd. Doctor Fagnani had said
something before about the police episode, and Mr. Clemens took
I have been listening to what was said here, and there is in it a lesson
of citizenship. You created the police, and you are responsible for
them. One must pause, therefore, before criticising them too harshly.
They are citizens, just as we are. A little of citizenship ought to be
taught at the mother's knee and in the nursery. Citizenship is what
makes a republic; monarchies can get along without it. What keeps a
republic on its legs is good citizenship.
Organization is necessary in all things. It is even necessary in reform.
I was an organization myself once--for twelve hours. I was in Chicago a
few years ago about to depart for New York. There were with me Mr.
Osgood, a publisher, and a stenographer. I picked out a state-room on a
train, the principal feature of which was that it contained the privilege
of smoking. The train had started but a short time when the conductor
came in and said that there had been a mistake made, and asked that we
vacate the apartment. I refused, but when I went out on the platform
Osgood and the stenographer agreed to accept a section. They were too
Now, I am not modest. I was born modest, but it didn't last. I asserted
myself; insisted upon my rights, and finally the Pullman Conductor and
the train conductor capitulated, and I was left in possession.
I went into the dining--car the next morning for breakfast. Ordinarily
I only care for coffee and rolls, but this particular morning I espied an
important-looking man on the other side of the car eating broiled
chicken. I asked for broiled chicken, and I was told by the waiter and
later by the dining-car conductor that there was no broiled chicken.
There must have been an argument, for the Pullman conductor came in and
remarked: "If he wants broiled chicken, give it to him. If you haven't
got it on the train, stop somewhere. It will be better for all
concerned!" I got the chicken.
It is from experiences such as these that you get your education of life,
and you string them into jewels or into tinware, as you may choose.
I have received recently several letters asking my counsel or advice.
The principal request is for some incident that may prove helpful to the
young. There were a lot of incidents in my career to help me along
--sometimes they helped me along faster than I wanted to go.
Here is such a request. It is a telegram from Joplin, Missouri, and it
reads: "In what one of your works can we find the definition of a
I have not answered that telegram, either; I couldn't. It seems to me
that if any man has just merciful and kindly instincts he would be a
gentleman, for he would need nothing else in the world.
I received the other day a letter from my old friend, William Dean
Howells--Howells, the head of American literature. No one is able to
stand with him. He is an old, old friend of mine, and he writes me,
"To-morrow I shall be sixty-nine years old." Why, I am surprised at
Howells writing that! I have known him longer than that. I'm sorry to
see a man trying to appear so young. Let's see. Howells says now,
"I see you have been burying Patrick. I suppose he was old, too."
No, he was never old--Patrick. He came to us thirty-six years ago. He
was my coachman on the morning that I drove my young bride to our new
home. He was a young Irishman, slender, tall, lithe, honest, truthful,
and he never changed in all his life. He really was with us but
twenty-five years, for he did not go with us to Europe, but he never
regarded that as separation. As the children grew up he was their guide.
He was all honor, honesty, and affection. He was with us in New
Hampshire, with us last summer, and his hair was just as black, his eyes
were just as blue, his form just as straight, and his heart just as good
as on the day we first met. In all the long years Patrick never made a
mistake. He never needed an order, he never received a command. He
knew. I have been asked for my idea of an ideal gentleman, and I give it
to you Patrick McAleer.
UNIVERSITY SETTLEMENT SOCIETY
After the serious addresses were made, Seth Low introduced Mr.
Clemens at the Settlement House, February 2, 1901.
The older we grow the greater becomes our wonder at how much ignorance
one can contain without bursting one's clothes. Ten days ago I did not
know anything about the University Settlement except what I'd read in the
pamphlets sent me. Now, after being here and hearing Mrs. Hewitt and
Mrs. Thomas, it seems to me I know of nothing like it at all. It's a
charity that carries no humiliation with it. Marvellous it is, to think
of schools where you don't have to drive the children in but drive them
out. It was not so in my day.
Down-stairs just now I saw a dancing lesson going on. You must pay a
cent for a lesson. You can't get it for nothing. That's the reason I
never learned to dance.
But it was the pawnbroker's shop you have here that interested me
mightily. I've known something about pawnbrokers' shops in my time,
but here you have a wonderful plan. The ordinary pawnbroker charges
thirty-six per cent. a year for a loan, and I've paid more myself, but
here a man or woman in distress can obtain a loan for one per cent.
a month! It's wonderful!
I've been interested in all I've heard to-day, especially in the romances
recounted by Mrs. Thomas, which reminds me that I have a romance of my
own in my autobiography, which I am building for the instruction of the
In San Francisco, many years ago, when I was a newspaper reporter
(perhaps I should say I had been and was willing to be), a pawnbroker was
taking care of what property I had. There was a friend of mine, a poet,
out of a job, and he was having a hard time of it, too. There was
passage in it, but I guess I've got to keep that for the autobiography.
Well, my friend the poet thought his life was a failure, and I told him I
thought it was, and then he said he thought he ought to commit suicide,
and I said "all right," which was disinterested advice to a friend in
trouble; but, like all such advice, there was just a little bit of
self-interest back of it, for if I could get a "scoop" on the other
newspapers I could get a job.
The poet could be spared, and so, largely for his own good and partly for
mine, I kept the thing in his mind, which was necessary, as would-be
suicides are very changeable aid hard to hold to their purpose. He had a
preference for a pistol, which was an extravagance, for we hadn't enough
between us to hire a pistol. A fork would have been easier.
And so he concluded to drown himself, and I said it was an excellent
idea--the only trouble being that he was so good a swimmer. So we went
down to the beach. I went along to see that the thing was done right.
Then something most romantic happened. There came in on the sea
something that had been on its way for three years. It rolled in across
the broad Pacific with a message that was full of meaning to that poor
poet and cast itself at his feet. It was a life-preserver! This was a
complication. And then I had an idea--he never had any, especially when
he was going to write poetry; I suggested that we pawn the life-preserver
and get a revolver.
The pawnbroker gave us an old derringer with a bullet as big as a hickory
nut. When he heard that it was only a poet that was going to kill
himself he did not quibble. Well, we succeeded in sending a bullet right
through his head. It was a terrible moment when he placed that pistol
against his forehead and stood for an instant. I said, "Oh, pull the
trigger!" and he did, and cleaned out all the gray matter in his brains.
It carried the poetic faculty away, and now he's a useful member of
Now, therefore, I realize that there's no more beneficent institution
than this penny fund of yours, and I want all the poets to know this.
I did think about writing you a check, but now I think I'll send you a
few copies of what one of your little members called 'Strawberry Finn'.
PUBLIC EDUCATION ASSOCIATION
ADDRESS AT A MEETING OF THE BERKELEY LYCEUM, NEW YORK,
NOVEMBER 23, 1900
I don't suppose that I am called here as an expert on education, for that
would show a lack of foresight on your part and a deliberate intention to
remind me of my shortcomings.
As I sat here looking around for an idea it struck me that I was called
for two reasons. One was to do good to me, a poor unfortunate traveller
on the world's wide ocean, by giving me a knowledge of the nature and
scope of your society and letting me know that others beside myself have
been of some use in the world. The other reason that I can see is that
you have called me to show by way of contrast what education can
accomplish if administered in the right sort of doses.
Your worthy president said that the school pictures, which have received
the admiration of the world at the Paris Exposition, have been sent to
Russia, and this was a compliment from that Government--which is very
surprising to me. Why, it is only an hour since I read a cablegram in
the newspapers beginning "Russia Proposes to Retrench." I was not
expecting such a thunderbolt, and I thought what a happy thing it will be
for Russians when the retrenchment will bring home the thirty thousand
Russian troops now in Manchuria, to live in peaceful pursuits. I thought
this was what Germany should do also without delay, and that France and
all the other nations in China should follow suit.
Why should not China be free from the foreigners, who are only making
trouble on her soil? If they would only all go home, what a pleasant
place China would be for the Chinese! We do not allow Chinamen to come
here, and I say in all seriousness that it would be a graceful thing to
let China decide who shall go there.
China never wanted foreigners any more than foreigners wanted Chinamen,
and on this question I am with the Boxers every time. The Boxer is a
patriot. He loves his country better than he does the countries of other
people. I wish him success. The Boxer believes in driving us out of his
country. I am a Boxer too, for I believe in driving him out of our
When I read the Russian despatch further my dream of world peace
vanished. It said that the vast expense of maintaining the army had made
it necessary to retrench, and so the Government had decided that to
support the army it would be necessary to withdraw the appropriation from
the public schools. This is a monstrous idea to us.
We believe that out of the public school grows the greatness of a nation.
It is curious to reflect how history repeats itself the world over. Why,
I remember the same thing was done when I was a boy on the Mississippi
River. There was a proposition in a township there to discontinue public
schools because they were too expensive. An old farmer spoke up and said
if they stopped the schools they would not save anything, because every
time a school was closed a jail had to be built.
It's like feeding a dog on his own tail. He'll never get fat. I believe
it is better to support schools than jails.
The work of your association is better and shows more wisdom than the
Czar of Russia and all his people. This is not much of a compliment, but
it's the best I've got in stock.
EDUCATION AND CITIZENSHIP
On the evening of May 14, 1908, the alumni of the College of
the City of New York celebrated the opening of the new college
buildings at a banquet in the Waldorf Astoria. Mr. Clemens
followed Mayor McClellan.
I agreed when the Mayor said that there was not a man within hearing who
did not agree that citizenship should be placed above everything else,
Have you ever thought about this? Is there a college in the whole
country where there is a chair of good citizenship? There is a kind of
bad citizenship which is taught in the schools, but no real good
citizenship taught. There are some which teach insane citizenship,
bastard citizenship, but that is all. Patriotism! Yes; but patriotism
is usually the refuge of the scoundrel. He is the man who talks the
You can begin that chair of citizenship in the College of the City of New
York. You can place it above mathematics and literature, and that is
where it belongs.
We used to trust in God. I think it was in 1863 that some genius
suggested that it be put upon the gold and silver coins which circulated
among the rich. They didn't put it on the nickels and coppers because
they didn't think the poor folks had any trust in God.
Good citizenship would teach accuracy of thinking and accuracy of
statement. Now, that motto on the coin is an overstatement. Those
Congressmen had no right to commit this whole country to a theological
doctrine. But since they did, Congress ought to state what our creed
There was never a nation in the world that put its whole trust in God.
It is a statement made on insufficient evidence. Leaving out the
gamblers, the burglars, and the plumbers, perhaps we do put our trust in
God after a fashion. But, after all, it is an overstatement.
If the cholera or black plague should come to these shores, perhaps the
bulk of the nation would pray to be delivered from it, but the rest would
put their trust in the Health Board of the City of New York.
I read in the papers within the last day or two of a poor young girl who
they said was a leper. Did the people in that populous section of the
country where she was--did they put their trust in God? The girl was
afflicted with the leprosy, a disease which cannot be communicated from
one person to another.
Yet, instead of putting their trust in God, they harried that poor
creature, shelterless and friendless, from place to place, exactly as
they did in the Middle Ages, when they made lepers wear bells, so that
people could be warned of their approach and avoid them. Perhaps those
people in the Middle Ages thought they were putting their trust in God.
The President ordered the removal of that motto from the coin, and I
thought that it was well. I thought that overstatement should not stay
there. But I think it would better read, "Within certain judicious
limitations we trust in God," and if there isn't enough room on the coin
for this, why, enlarge the coin.
Now I want to tell a story about jumping at conclusions. It was told to
me by Bram Stoker, and it concerns a christening. There was a little
clergyman who was prone to jump at conclusions sometimes. One day he was
invited to officiate at a christening. He went. There sat the
relatives--intelligent-looking relatives they were. The little
clergyman's instinct came to him to make a great speech. He was given to
flights of oratory that way--a very dangerous thing, for often the wings
which take one into clouds of oratorical enthusiasm are wax and melt up
there, and down you come.
But the little clergyman couldn't resist. He took the child in his arms,
and, holding it, looked at it a moment. It wasn't much of a child. It
was little, like a sweet-potato. Then the little clergyman waited
impressively, and then: "I see in your countenances," he said,
"disappointment of him. I see you are disappointed with this baby. Why?
Because he is so little. My friends, if you had but the power of looking
into the future you might see that great things may come of little
things. There is the great ocean, holding the navies of the world, which
comes from little drops of water no larger than a woman's tears. There
are the great constellations in the sky, made up of little bits of stars.
Oh, if you could consider his future you might see that he might become
the greatest poet of the universe, the greatest warrior the world has
ever known, greater than Caesar, than Hannibal, than--er--er" (turning to
the father)--"what's his name?"
The father hesitated, then whispered back: "His name? Well, his name is
At a beefsteak dinner, given by artists, caricaturists, and
humorists of New York City, April 18, 1908, Mr. Clemens, Mr. H.
H. Rogers, and Mr. Patrick McCarren were the guests of honor.
Each wore a white apron, and each made a short speech.
In the matter of courage we all have our limits.
There never was a hero who did not have his bounds. I suppose it may be
said of Nelson and all the others whose courage has been advertised that
there came times in their lives when their bravery knew it had come to
I have found mine a good many times. Sometimes this was expected--often
it was unexpected. I know a man who is not afraid to sleep with a
rattlesnake, but you could not get him to sleep with a safety-razor.
I never had the courage to talk across a long, narrow room I should be at
the end of the room facing all the audience. If I attempt to talk across
a room I find myself turning this way and that, and thus at alternate
periods I have part of the audience behind me. You ought never to have
any part of the audience behind you; you never can tell what they are
going to do.
I'll sit down.
THE DINNER TO MR. CHOATE
AT A DINNER GIVEN IN HONOR OF AMBASSADOR JOSEPH H. CHOATE AT
THE LOTOS CLUB, NOVEMBER 24, 7902
The speakers, among others, were: Senator Depew, William Henry
White, Speaker Thomas Reed, and Mr. Choate. Mr. Clemens spoke,
in part, as follows:
The greatness of this country rests on two anecdotes. The first one is
that of Washington and his hatchet, representing the foundation of true
speaking, which is the characteristic of our people. The second one is
an old one, and I've been waiting to hear it to-night; but as nobody has
told it yet, I will tell it.
You've heard it before, and you'll hear it many, many times more. It is
an anecdote of our guest, of the time when he was engaged as a young man
with a gentle Hebrew, in the process of skinning the client. The main
part in that business is the collection of the bill for services in
skinning the man. "Services" is the term used in that craft for the
operation of that kind-diplomatic in its nature.
Choate's--co-respondent--made out a bill for $500 for his services, so
called. But Choate told him he had better leave the matter to him, and
the next day he collected the bill for the services and handed the Hebrew
$5000, saying, "That's your half of the loot," and inducing that
memorable response: "Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian."
The deep-thinkers didn't merely laugh when that happened. They stopped
to think, and said "There's a rising man. He must be rescued from the
law and consecrated to diplomacy. The commercial advantages of a great
nation lie there in that man's keeping. We no longer require a man to
take care of our moral character before the world. Washington and his
anecdote have done that. We require a man to take care of our commercial
Mr. Choate has carried that trait with him, and, as Mr. Carnegie has
said, he has worked like a mole underground.
We see the result when American railroad iron is sold so cheap in England
that the poorest family can have it. He has so beguiled that Cabinet of
He has been spreading the commerce of this nation, and has depressed
English commerce in the same ratio. This was the principle underlying
that anecdote, and the wise men saw it; the principle of give and take
--give one and take ten--the principle of diplomacy.
ON STANLEY AND LIVINGSTONE
Mr. Clemens was entertained at dinner by the Whitefriars' Club,
London, at the Mitre Tavern, on the evening of August 6, 1872.
In reply to the toast in his honor he said:
GENTLEMEN,--I thank you very heartily indeed for this expression of
kindness toward me. What I have done for England and civilization in the
arduous affairs which I have engaged in (that is good: that is so smooth
that I will say it again and again)--what I have done for England and
civilization in the arduous part I have performed I have done with a
single-hearted devotion and with no hope of reward. I am proud, I am
very proud, that it was reserved for me to find Doctor Livingstone and
for Mr. Stanley to get all the credit. I hunted for that man in Africa
all over seventy-five or one hundred parishes, thousands and thousands of
miles in the wilds and deserts all over the place, sometimes riding
negroes and sometimes travelling by rail. I didn't mind the rail or
anything else, so that I didn't come in for the tar and feathers. I
found that man at Ujiji--a place you may remember if you have ever been
there--and it was a very great satisfaction that I found him just in the
nick of time. I found that poor old man deserted by his niggers and by
his geographers, deserted by all of his kind except the gorillas
--dejected, miserable, famishing, absolutely famishing--but he was
eloquent. Just as I found him he had eaten his last elephant, and he
said to me: "God knows where I shall get another." He had nothing to
wear except his venerable and honorable naval suit, and nothing to eat
but his diary.
But I said to him: "It is all right; I have discovered you, and Stanley
will be here by the four-o'clock train and will discover you officially,
and then we will turn to and have a reg'lar good time." I said: "Cheer
up, for Stanley has got corn, ammunition, glass beads, hymn-books,
whiskey, and everything which the human heart can desire; he has got all
kinds of valuables, including telegraph-poles and a few cart-loads of
money. By this time communication has been made with the land of Bibles
and civilization, and property will advance." And then we surveyed all
that country, from Ujiji, through Unanogo and other places, to
Unyanyembe. I mention these names simply for your edification, nothing
more--do not expect it--particularly as intelligence to the Royal
Geographical Society. And then, having filled up the old man, we were
all too full for utterance and departed. We have since then feasted on
Stanley has received a snuff-box and I have received considerable snuff;
he has got to write a book and gather in the rest of the credit, and I am
going to levy on the copyright and to collect the money. Nothing comes
amiss to me--cash or credit; but, seriously, I do feel that Stanley is
the chief man and an illustrious one, and I do applaud him with all my
heart. Whether he is an American or a Welshman by birth, or one, or
both, matters not to me. So far as I am personally concerned, I am
simply here to stay a few months, and to see English people and to learn
English manners and customs, and to enjoy myself; so the simplest thing I
can do is to thank you for the toast you have honored me with and for the
remarks you have made, and to wish health and prosperity to the
Whitefriars' Club, and to sink down to my accustomed level.
HENRY M. STANLEY
ADDRESS DELIVERED IN BOSTON, NOVEMBER, 1886
Mr. Clemens introduced Mr. Stanley.
LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, if any should ask, Why is it that you are here as
introducer of the lecturer? I should answer that I happened to be around
and was asked to perform this function. I was quite willing to do so,
and, as there was no sort of need of an introduction, anyway, it could be
necessary only that some person come forward for a moment and do an
unnecessary thing, and this is quite in my line. Now, to introduce so
illustrious a name as Henry M. Stanley by any detail of what the man has
done is clear aside from my purpose; that would be stretching the
unnecessary to an unconscionable degree. When I contrast what I have
achieved in my measurably brief life with what he has achieved in his
possibly briefer one, the effect is to sweep utterly away the ten-story
edifice of my own self-appreciation and leave nothing behind but the
cellar. When you compare these achievements of his with the achievements
of really great men who exist in history, the comparison, I believe, is
in his favor. I am not here to disparage Columbus.
No, I won't do that; but when you come to regard the achievements of
these two men, Columbus and Stanley, from the standpoint of the
difficulties they encountered, the advantage is with Stanley and against
Columbus. Now, Columbus started out to discover America. Well, he
didn't need to do anything at all but sit in the cabin of his ship and
hold his grip and sail straight on, and America would discover itself.
Here it was, barring his passage the whole length and breadth of the
South American continent, and he couldn't get by it. He'd got to
discover it. But Stanley started out to find Doctor Livingstone, who was
scattered abroad, as you may say, over the length and breadth of a vast
slab of Africa as big as the United States.
It was a blind kind of search. He was the worst scattered of men. But I
will throw the weight of this introduction upon one very peculiar feature
of Mr. Stanley's character, and that is his indestructible Americanism
--an Americanism which he is proud of. And in this day and time, when it
is the custom to ape and imitate English methods and fashion, it is like
a breath of fresh air to stand in the presence of this untainted American
citizen who has been caressed and complimented by half of the crowned
heads of Europe who could clothe his body from his head to his heels with
the orders and decorations lavished upon him. And yet, when the untitled
myriads of his own country put out their hands in welcome to him and
greet him, "Well done," through the Congress of the United States, that
is the crown that is worth all the rest to him. He is a product of
institutions which exist in no other country on earth-institutions that
bring out all that is best and most heroic in a man. I introduce Henry
DINNER TO MR. JEROME
A dinner to express their confidence in the integrity and good
judgment of District-Attorney Jerome was given at Delmonico's
by over three hundred of his admirers on the evening of May 7,
Indeed, that is very sudden. I was not informed that the verdict was
going to depend upon my judgment, but that makes not the least difference
in the world when you already know all about it. It is not any matter
when you are called upon to express it; you can get up and do it, and my
verdict has already been recorded in my heart and in my head as regards
Mr. Jerome and his administration of the criminal affairs of this county.
I agree with everything Mr. Choate has said in his letter regarding Mr.
Jerome; I agree with everything Mr. Shepard has said; and I agree with
everything Mr. Jerome has said in his own commendation. And I thought
Mr. Jerome was modest in that. If he had been talking about another
officer of this county, he could have painted the joys and sorrows of
office and his victories in even stronger language than he did.
I voted for Mr. Jerome in those old days, and I should like to vote for
him again if he runs for any office. I moved out of New York, and that
is the reason, I suppose, I cannot vote for him again. There may be some
way, but I have not found it out. But now I am a farmer--a farmer up in
Connecticut, and winning laurels. Those people already speak with such
high favor, admiration, of my farming, and they say that I am the only
man that has ever come to that region who could make two blades of grass
grow where only three grew before.
Well, I cannot vote for him. You see that. As it stands now, I cannot.
I am crippled in that way and to that extent, for I would ever so much
like to do it. I am not a Congress, and I cannot distribute pensions,
and I don't know any other legitimate way to buy a vote. But if I should
think of any legitimate way, I shall make use of it, and then I shall
vote for Mr. Jerome.
The Dramatic and Literary Society of London gave a welcome-home
dinner to Sir Henry Irving at the Savoy Hotel, London, June 9,
1900. In proposing the toast of "The Drama" Mr. Clemens said:
I find my task a very easy one. I have been a dramatist for thirty
years. I have had an ambition in all that time to overdo the work of the
Spaniard who said he left behind him four hundred dramas when he died.
I leave behind me four hundred and fifteen, and am not yet dead.
The greatest of all the arts is to write a drama. It is a most difficult
thing. It requires the highest talent possible and the rarest gifts.
No, there is another talent that ranks with it--for anybody can write a
drama--I had four hundred of them--but to get one accepted requires real
ability. And I have never had that felicity yet.
But human nature is so constructed, we are so persistent, that when we
know that we are born to a thing we do not care what the world thinks
about it. We go on exploiting that talent year after year, as I have
done. I shall go on writing dramas, and some day the impossible may
happen, but I am not looking for it.
In writing plays the chief thing is novelty. The world grows tired of
solid forms in all the arts. I struck a new idea myself years ago.
I was not surprised at it. I was always expecting it would happen.
A person who has suffered disappointment for many years loses confidence,
and I thought I had better make inquiries before I exploited my new idea
of doing a drama in the form of a dream, so I wrote to a great authority
on knowledge of all kinds, and asked him whether it was new.
I could depend upon him. He lived in my dear home in America--that dear
home, dearer to me through taxes. He sent me a list of plays in which
that old device had been used, and he said that there was also a modern
lot. He travelled back to China and to a play dated two thousand six
hundred years before the Christian era. He said he would follow it up
with a list of the previous plays of the kind, and in his innocence would
have carried them back to the Flood.
That is the most discouraging thing that has ever happened to me in my
dramatic career. I have done a world of good in a silent and private
way, and have furnished Sir Henry Irving with plays and plays and plays.
What has he achieved through that influence. See where he stands now
--on the summit of his art in two worlds and it was I who put him there
--that partly put him there.
I need not enlarge upon the influence the drama has exerted upon
civilization. It has made good morals entertaining. I am to be followed
by Mr. Pinero. I conceive that we stand at the head of the profession.
He has not written as many plays as I have, but he has lead that
God-given talent, which I lack, of working hem off on the manager.
I couple his name with this toast, and add the hope that his influence
will be supported in exercising his masterly handicraft in that great
gift, and that he will long live to continue his fine work.
DINNER TO HAMILTON W. MABIE
ADDRESS DELIVERED APRIL 29, 1901
In introducing Mr. Clemens, Doctor Van Dyke said:
"The longer the speaking goes on to-night the more I wonder how
I got this job, and the only explanation I can give for it is
that it is the same kind of compensation for the number of
articles I have sent to The Outlook, to be rejected by Hamilton
W. Mabie. There is one man here to-night that has a job cut
out for him that none of you would have had--a man whose humor
has put a girdle of light around the globe, and whose sense of
humor has been an example for all five continents. He is going
to speak to you. Gentlemen, you know him best as Mark Twain."
MR. CHAIRMAN AND GENTLEMEN,--This man knows now how it feels to be the
chief guest, and if he has enjoyed it he is the first man I have ever
seen in that position that did enjoy it. And I know, by side-remarks
which he made to me before his ordeal came upon him, that he was feeling
as some of the rest of us have felt under the same circumstances. He was
afraid that he would not do himself justice; but he did--to my surprise.
It is a most serious thing to be a chief guest on an occasion like this,
and it is admirable, it is fine. It is a great compliment to a man that
he shall come out of it so gloriously as Mr. Mabie came out of it
tonight--to my surprise. He did it well.
He appears to be editor of The Outlook, and notwithstanding that, I have
every admiration, because when everything is said concerning The Outlook,
after all one must admit that it is frank in its delinquencies, that it
is outspoken in its departures from fact, that it is vigorous in its
mistaken criticisms of men like me. I have lived in this world a long,
long time, and I know you must not judge a man by the editorials that he
puts in his paper. A man is always better than his printed opinions.
A man always reserves to himself on the inside a purity and an honesty
and a justice that are a credit to him, whereas the things that he prints
are just the reverse.
Oh yes, you must not judge a man by what he writes in his paper. Even in
an ordinary secular paper a man must observe some care about it; he must
be better than the principles which he puts in print. And that is the
case with Mr. Mabie. Why, to see what he writes about me and the
missionaries you would think he did not have any principles. But that is
Mr. Mabie in his public capacity. Mr. Mabie in his private capacity is
just as clean a man as I am.
In this very room, a month or two ago, some people admired that portrait;
some admired this, but the great majority fastened on that, and said,
"There is a portrait that is a beautiful piece of art." When that
portrait is a hundred years old it will suggest what were the manners and
customs in our time. Just as they talk about Mr. Mabie to-night, in that
enthusiastic way, pointing out the various virtues of the man and the
grace of his spirit, and all that, so was that portrait talked about.
They were enthusiastic, just as we men have been over the character and
the work of Mr. Mabie. And when they were through they said that
portrait, fine as it is, that work, beautiful as it is, that piece of
humanity on that canvas, gracious and fine as it is, does not rise to
those perfections that exist in the man himself. Come up, Mr. Alexander.
[The reference was to James W. Alexander, who happened to be sitting
--beneath the portrait of himself on the wall.] Now, I should come up
and show myself. But he cannot do it, he cannot do it. He was born that
way, he was reared in that way. Let his modesty be an example, and I
wish some of you had it, too. But that is just what I have been saying
--that portrait, fine as it is, is not as fine as the man it represents,
and all the things that have been said about Mr. Mabie, and certainly
they have been very nobly worded and beautiful, still fall short of the
INTRODUCING NYE AND RILEY
James Whitcomb Riley and Edgar Wilson Nye (Bill Nye) were to
give readings in Tremont Temple, Boston, November, 1888. Mr.
Clemens was induced to introduce Messrs. Riley and Nye. His
appearance on the platform was a surprise to the audience, and
when they recognized him there was a tremendous demonstration.
I am very glad indeed to introduce these young people to you, and at the
same time get acquainted with them myself. I have seen them more than
once for a moment, but have not had the privilege of knowing them
personally as intimately as I wanted to. I saw them first, a great many
years ago, when Mr. Barnum had them, and they were just fresh from Siam.
The ligature was their best hold then, the literature became their best
hold later, when one of them committed an indiscretion, and they had to
cut the old bond to accommodate the sheriff.
In that old former time this one was Chang, that one was Eng. The
sympathy existing between the two was most extraordinary; it was so fine,
so strong, so subtle, that what the one ate the other digested; when one
slept, the other snored; if one sold a thing, the other scooped the
usufruct. This independent and yet dependent action was observable in
all the details of their daily life--I mean this quaint and arbitrary
distribution of originating cause and resulting effect between the two
--between, I may say, this dynamo and the other always motor, or, in
other words, that the one was always the creating force, the other always
the utilizing force; no, no, for while it is true that within certain
well-defined zones of activity the one was always dynamo and the other
always motor, within certain other well-defined zones these positions
became exactly reversed.
For instance, in moral matters Mr. Chang Riley was always dynamo, Mr. Eng
Nye was always motor; for while Mr. Chang Riley had a high--in fact, an
abnormally high and fine moral sense, he had no machinery to work it
with; whereas, Mr. Eng Nye, who hadn't any moral sense at all, and hasn't
yet, was equipped with all the necessary plant for putting a noble deed
through, if he could only get the inspiration on reasonable terms
In intellectual matters, on the other hand, Mr. Eng Nye was always
dynamo, Mr. Chang Riley was always motor; Mr. Eng Nye had a stately
intellect, but couldn't make it go; Mr. Chang Riley hadn't, but could.
That is to say, that while Mr. Chang Riley couldn't think things himself,
he had a marvellous natural grace in setting them down and weaving them
together when his pal furnished the raw material.
Thus, working together, they made a strong team; laboring together, they
could do miracles; but break the circuit, and both were impotent. It has
remained so to this day: they must travel together, hoe, and plant, and
plough, and reap, and sell their public together, or there's no result.
I have made this explanation, this analysis, this vivisection, so to
speak, in order that you may enjoy these delightful adventurers
understandingly. When Mr. Eng Nye's deep and broad and limpid
philosophies flow by in front of you, refreshing all the regions round
about with their gracious floods, you will remember that it isn't his
water; it's the other man's, and he is only working the pump. And when
Mr. Chang Riley enchants your ear, and soothes your spirit, and touches
your heart with the sweet and genuine music of his poetry--as sweet and
as genuine as any that his friends, the birds and the bees, make about
his other friends, the woods and the flowers--you will remember, while
placing justice where justice is due, that it isn't his music, but the
other man's--he is only turning the crank.
I beseech for these visitors a fair field, a singleminded, one-eyed
umpire, and a score bulletin barren of goose-eggs if they earn it--and I
judge they will and hope they will. Mr. James Whitcomb Chang Riley will
now go to the bat.
DINNER TO WHITELAW REID
ADDRESS AT THE DINNER IN HONOR OF AMBASSADOR REID, GIVEN BY THE
PILGRIMS' CLUB OF NEW YORK ON FEBRUARY 19, 1908
I am very proud to respond to this toast, as it recalls the proudest day
of my life. The delightful hospitality shown me at the time of my visit
to Oxford I shall cherish until I die. In that long and distinguished
career of mine I value that degree above all other honors. When the ship
landed even the stevedores gathered on the shore and gave an English
cheer. Nothing could surpass in my life the pleasure of those four
weeks. No one could pass by me without taking my hand, even the
policemen. I've been in all the principal capitals of Christendom in my
life, and have always been an object of interest to policemen. Sometimes
there was suspicion in their eyes, but not always. With their puissant
hand they would hold up the commerce of the world to let me pass.
I noticed in the papers this afternoon a despatch from Washington, saying
that Congress would immediately pass a bill restoring to our gold coinage
the motto "In God We Trust." I'm glad of that; I'm glad of that. I was
troubled when that motto was removed. Sure enough, the prosperities of
the whole nation went down in a heap when we ceased to trust in God in
that conspicuously advertised way. I knew there would be trouble. And
if Pierpont Morgan hadn't stepped in--Bishop Lawrence may now add to his
message to the old country that we are now trusting in God again. So we
can discharge Mr. Morgan from his office with honor.
Mr. Reid said an hour or so ago something about my ruining my activities
last summer. They are not ruined, they are renewed. I am stronger now
--much stronger. I suppose that the spiritual uplift I received
increased my physical power more than anything I ever had before. I was
dancing last night at 1.30 o'clock.
Mr. Choate has mentioned Mr. Reid's predecessors. Mr. Choate's head is
full of history, and some of it is true, too. I enjoyed hearing him tell
about the list of the men who had the place before he did. He mentioned
a long list of those predecessors, people I never heard of before, and
elected five of them to the Presidency by his own vote. I'm glad and
proud to find Mr. Reid in that high position, because he didn't look it
when I knew him forty years ago. I was talking to Reid the other day,
and he showed me my autograph on an old paper twenty years old. I didn't
know I had an autograph twenty years ago. Nobody ever asked me for it.
I remember a dinner I had long ago with Whitelaw Reid and John Hay at
Reid's expense. I had another last summer when I was in London at the
embassy that Choate blackguards so. I'd like to live there.
Some people say they couldn't live on the salary, but I could live on the
salary and the nation together. Some of us don't appreciate what this
country can do. There's John Hay, Reid, Choate, and me. This is the
only country in the world where youth, talent, and energy can reach such
heights. It shows what we could do without means, and what people can do
with talent and energy when they find it in people like us.
When I first came to New York they were all struggling young men, and I
am glad to see that they have got on in the world. I knew John Hay when
I had no white hairs in my head and more hair than Reid has now. Those
were days of joy and hope. Reid and Hay were on the staff of the
Tribune. I went there once in that old building, and I looked all around
and I finally found a door ajar and looked in. It wasn't Reid or Hay
there, but it was Horace Greeley. Those were in the days when Horace
Greeley was a king. That was the first time I ever saw him and the last.
I was admiring him when he stopped and seemed to realize that there was a
fine presence there somewhere. He tried to smile, but he was out of
smiles. He looked at me a moment, and said:
"What in H---do you want?"
He began with that word "H." That's a long word and a profane word.
I don't remember what the word was now, but I recognized the power of it.
I had never used that language myself, but at that moment I was
converted. It has been a great refuge for me in time of trouble. If a
man doesn't know that language he can't express himself on strenuous
occasions. When you have that word at your command let trouble come.
But later Hay rose, and you know what summit Whitelaw Reid has reached,
and you see me. Those two men have regulated troubles of nations and
conferred peace upon mankind. And in my humble way, of which I am quite
vain, I was the principal moral force in all those great international
movements. These great men illustrated what I say. Look at us great
people--we all come from the dregs of society. That's what can be done
in this country. That's what this country does for you.
Choate here--he hasn't got anything to say, but he says it just the same,
and he can do it so felicitously, too. I said long ago he was the
handsomest man America ever produced. May the progress of civilization
always rest on such distinguished men as it has in the past!
ROGERS AND RAILROADS
AT A BANQUET GIVEN MR. H. H. ROGERS BY THE BUSINESS MEN OF
NORFOLK, VA., CELEBRATING THE OPENING OF THE VIRGINIAN RAILWAY,
APRIL, 3, 1909
"I have often thought that when the time comes, which must come
to all of us, when we reach that Great Way in the Great Beyond,
and the question is propounded, 'What have you done to gain
admission into this great realm?' if the answer could be
sincerely made, 'I have made men laugh,' it would be the surest
passport to a welcome entrance. We have here to-night one who
has made millions laugh--not the loud laughter that bespeaks
the vacant mind, but the laugh of intelligent mirth that helps
the human heart and the human mind. I refer, of course, to
Doctor Clemens. I was going to say Mark Twain, his literary
title, which is a household phrase in more homes than that of
any other man, and you know him best by that dear old title."
I thank you, Mr. Toastmaster, for the compliment which you have paid me,
and I am sure I would rather have made people laugh than cry, yet in my
time I have made some of them cry; and before I stop entirely I hope to
make some more of them cry. I like compliments. I deal in them myself.
I have listened with the greatest pleasure to the compliments which the
chairman has paid to Mr. Rogers and that road of his to-night, and I hope
some of them are deserved.
It is no small distinction to a man like that to sit here before an
intelligent crowd like this and to be classed with Napoleon and Caesar.
Why didn't he say that this was the proudest day of his life? Napoleon
and Caesar are dead, and they can't be here to defend themselves. But
The chairman said, and very truly, that the most lasting thing in the
hands of man are the roads which Caesar built, and it is true that he
built a lot of them; and they are there yet.
Yes, Caesar built a lot of roads in England, and you can find them. But
Rogers has only built one road, and he hasn't finished that yet. I like
to hear my old friend complimented, but I don't like to hear it overdone.
I didn't go around to-day with the others to see what he is doing. I
will do that in a quiet time, when there is not anything going on, and
when I shall not be called upon to deliver intemperate compliments on a
railroad in which I own no stock.
They proposed that I go along with the committee and help inspect that
dump down yonder. I didn't go. I saw that dump. I saw that thing when
I was coming in on the steamer, and I didn't go because I was diffident,
sentimentally diffident, about going and looking at that thing again
--that great, long, bony thing; it looked just like Mr. Rogers's foot.
The chairman says Mr. Rogers is full of practical wisdom, and he is.
It is intimated here that he is a very ingenious man, and he, is a very
competent financier. Maybe he is now, but it was not always so. I know
lots of private things in his life which people don't know, and I know
how he started; and it was not a very good start. I could have done
better myself. The first time he crossed the Atlantic he had just made
the first little strike in oil, and he was so young he did not like to
ask questions. He did not like to appear ignorant. To this day he don't
like to appear ignorant, but he can look as ignorant as anybody.
On board the ship they were betting on the run of the ship, betting a
couple of shillings, or half a crown, and they proposed that this youth
from the oil regions should bet on the run of the ship. He did not like
to ask what a half-crown was, and he didn't know; but rather than be
ashamed of himself he did bet half a crown on the run of the ship, and in
bed he could not sleep. He wondered if he could afford that outlay in
case he lost. He kept wondering over it, and said to himself: "A king's
crown must be worth $20,000, so half a crown would cost $10,000."
He could not afford to bet away $10,000 on the run of the ship, so he
went up to the stakeholder and gave him $150 to let him off.
I like to hear Mr. Rogers complimented. I am not stingy in compliments
to him myself. Why, I did it to-day when I sent his wife a telegram to
comfort her. That is the kind of person I am. I knew she would be
uneasy about him. I knew she would be solicitous about what he might do
down here, so I did it to quiet her and to comfort her. I said he was
doing well for a person out of practice. There is nothing like it.
He is like I used to be. There were times when I was careless--careless
in my dress when I got older. You know how uncomfortable your wife can
get when you are going away without her superintendence. Once when my
wife could not go with me (she always went with me when she could
--I always did meet that kind of luck), I was going to Washington once, a
long time ago, in Mr. Cleveland's first administration, and she could not
go; but, in her anxiety that I should not desecrate the house, she made
preparation. She knew that there was to be a reception of those authors
at the White House at seven o'clock in the evening. She said, "If I
should tell you now what I want to ask of you, you would forget it before
you get to Washington, and, therefore, I have written it on a card, and
you will find it in your dress--vest pocket when you are dressing at the
Arlington--when you are dressing to see the President." I never thought
of it again until I was dressing, and I felt in that pocket and took it
out, and it said, in a kind of imploring way, "Don't wear your arctics in
the White House."
You complimented Mr. Rogers on his energy, his foresightedness,
complimented him in various ways, and he has deserved those compliments,
although I say it myself; and I enjoy them all. There is one side of Mr.
Rogers that has not been mentioned. If you will leave that to me I will
touch upon that. There was a note in an editorial in one of the Norfolk
papers this morning that touched upon that very thing, that hidden side
of Mr. Rogers, where it spoke of Helen Keller and her affection for Mr.
Rogers, to whom she dedicated her life book. And she has a right to feel
that way, because, without the public knowing anything about it, he
rescued, if I may use that term, that marvellous girl, that wonderful
Southern girl, that girl who was stone deaf, blind, and dumb from
scarlet-fever when she was a baby eighteen months old; and who now is as
well and thoroughly educated as any woman on this planet at twenty-nine
years of age. She is the most marvellous person of her sex that has
existed on this earth since Joan of Arc.
That is not all Mr. Rogers has done; but you never see that side of his
character, because it is never protruding; but he lends a helping hand
daily out of that generous heart of his. You never hear of it. He is
supposed to be a moon which has one side dark and the other bright.
But the other side, though you don't see it, is not dark; it is bright,
and its rays penetrate, and others do see it who are not God.
I would take this opportunity to tell something that I have never been
allowed to tell by Mr. Rogers, either by my mouth or in print, and if I
don't look at him I can tell it now.
In 1893, when the publishing company of Charles L. Webster, of which I
was financial agent, failed, it left me heavily in debt. If you will
remember what commerce was at that time you will recall that you could
not sell anything, and could not buy anything, and I was on my back; my
books were not worth anything at all, and I could not give away my
copyrights. Mr. Rogers had long enough vision ahead to say, "Your books
have supported you before, and after the panic is over they will support
you again," and that was a correct proposition. He saved my copyrights,
and saved me from financial ruin. He it was who arranged with my
creditors to allow me to roam the face of the earth for four years and
persecute the nations thereof with lectures, promising that at the end of
four years I would pay dollar for dollar. That arrangement was made;
otherwise I would now be living out-of-doors under an umbrella, and a
borrowed one at that.
You see his white mustache and his head trying to get white (he is always
trying to look like me--I don't blame him for that). These are only
emblematic of his character, and that is all. I say, without exception,
hair and all, he is the whitest man I have ever known.
THE OLD-FASHIONED PRINTER
ADDRESS AT THE TYPOTHETAE DINNER GIVEN AT DELMONICO'S,
JANUARY 18, 1886, COMMEMORATING THE BIRTHDAY OF
Mr. Clemens responded to the toast "The Compositor."
The chairman's historical reminiscences of Gutenberg have caused me to
fall into reminiscences, for I myself am something of an antiquity.
All things change in the procession of years, and it may be that I am
among strangers. It may be that the printer of to-day is not the printer
of thirty-five years ago. I was no stranger to him. I knew him well.
I built his fire for him in the winter mornings; I brought his water from
the village pump; I swept out his office; I picked up his type from under
his stand; and, if he were there to see, I put the good type in his case
and the broken ones among the "hell matter"; and if he wasn't there to
see, I dumped it all with the "pi" on the imposing-stone--for that was
the furtive fashion of the cub, and I was a cub. I wetted down the paper
Saturdays, I turned it Sundays--for this was a country weekly; I rolled,
I washed the rollers, I washed the forms, I folded the papers, I carried
them around at dawn Thursday mornings. The carrier was then an object of
interest to all the dogs in town. If I had saved up all the bites I ever
received, I could keep M. Pasteur busy for a year. I enveloped the
papers that were for the mail--we had a hundred town subscribers and
three hundred and fifty country ones; the town subscribers paid in
groceries and the country ones in cabbages and cord-wood--when they paid
at all, which was merely sometimes, and then we always stated the fact in
the paper, and gave them a puff; and if we forgot it they stopped the
paper. Every man on the town list helped edit the thing--that is,
he gave orders as to how it was to be edited; dictated its opinions,
marked out its course for it, and every time the boss failed to connect
he stopped his paper. We were just infested with critics, and we tried
to satisfy them all over. We had one subscriber who paid cash, and he
was more trouble than all the rest. He bought us once a year, body and
soul, for two dollars. He used to modify our politics every which way,
and he made us change our religion four times in five years. If we ever
tried to reason with him, he would threaten to stop his paper, and, of
course, that meant bankruptcy and destruction. That man used to write
articles a column and a half long, leaded long primer, and sign them
"Junius," or "Veritas," or "Vox Populi," or some other high-sounding rot;
and then, after it was set up, he would come in and say he had changed
his mind-which was a gilded figure of speech, because he hadn't any--and
order it to be left out. We couldn't afford "bogus" in that office, so
we always took the leads out, altered the signature, credited the article
to the rival paper in the next village, and put it in. Well, we did have
one or two kinds of "bogus." Whenever there was a barbecue, or a circus,
or a baptizing, we knocked off for half a day, and then to make up for
short matter we would "turn over ads"--turn over the whole page and
duplicate it. The other "bogus" was deep philosophical stuff, which we
judged nobody ever read; so we kept a galley of it standing, and kept on
slapping the same old batches of it in, every now and then, till it got
dangerous. Also, in the early days of the telegraph we used to economize
on the news. We picked out the items that were pointless and barren of
information and stood them on a galley, and changed the dates and
localities, and used them over and over again till the public interest in
them was worn to the bone. We marked the ads, but we seldom paid any
attention to the marks afterward; so the life of a "td" ad and a "tf" ad
was equally eternal. I have seen a "td" notice of a sheriff's sale still
booming serenely along two years after the sale was over, the sheriff
dead, and the whole circumstance become ancient history. Most of the
yearly ads were patent-medicine stereotypes, and we used to fence with
I can see that printing-office of prehistoric times yet, with its horse
bills on, the walls, its "d" boxes clogged with tallow, because we always
stood the candle in the "k" box nights, its towel, which was not
considered soiled until it could stand alone, and other signs and symbols
that marked the establishment of that kind in the Mississippi Valley;
and I can see, also, the tramping "jour," who flitted by in the summer
and tarried a day, with his wallet stuffed with one shirt and a hatful of
handbills; for if he couldn't get any type to set he would do a
temperance lecture. His way of life was simple, his needs not complex;
all he wanted was plate and bed and money enough to get drunk on, and he
was satisfied. But it may be, as I have said, that I am among strangers,
and sing the glories of a forgotten age to unfamiliar ears, so I will
"make even" and stop.
SOCIETY OF AMERICAN AUTHORS
On November 15, 1900, the society gave a reception to Mr.
Clemens, who came with his wife and daughter. So many members
surrounded the guests that Mr. Clemens asked: "Is this genuine
popularity or is it all a part of a prearranged programme?"
MR. CHAIRMAN, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN,--It seems a most difficult thing for
any man to say anything about me that is not complimentary. I don't know
what the charm is about me which makes it impossible for a person to say
a harsh thing about me and say it heartily, as if he was glad to say it.
If this thing keeps on it will make me believe that I am what these kind
chairmen say of me. In introducing me, Judge Ransom spoke of my modesty
as if he was envious of me. I would like to have one man come out
flat-footed and say something harsh and disparaging of me, even if it
were true. I thought at one time, as the learned judge was speaking,
that I had found that man; but he wound up, like all the others, by
saying complimentary things.
I am constructed like everybody else, and enjoy a compliment as well as
any other fool, but I do like to have the other side presented. And
there is another side. I have a wicked side. Estimable friends who know
all about it would tell you and take a certain delight in telling you
things that I have done, and things further that I have not repented.
The real life that I live, and the real life that I suppose all of you
live, is a life of interior sin. That is what makes life valuable and
pleasant. To lead a life of undiscovered sin! That is true joy.
Judge Ransom seems to have all the virtues that he ascribes to me. But,
oh my! if you could throw an X-ray through him. We are a pair. I have
made a life-study of trying to appear to be what he seems to think I am.
Everybody believes that I am a monument of all the virtues, but it is
nothing of the sort. I am living two lives, and it keeps me pretty busy.
Some day there will be a chairman who will forget some of these merits of
mine, and then he will make a speech.
I have more personal vanity than modesty, and twice as much veracity as
the two put together.
When that fearless and forgetful chairman is found there will be another
story told. At the Press Club recently I thought that I had found
him. He started in in the way that I knew I should be painted with all
sincerity, and was leading to things that would not be to my credit; but
when he said that he never read a book of mine I knew at once that he was
a liar, because he never could have had all the wit and intelligence with
which he was blessed unless he had read my works as a basis.
I like compliments. I like to go home and tell them all over again to
the members of my family. They don't believe them, but I like to tell
them in the home circle, all the same. I like to dream of them if I can.
I thank everybody for their compliments, but I don't think that I am
praised any more than I am entitled to be.
On October 13, 1900, Mr. Clemens made his last address
preceding his departure for America at Kensal Rise, London.
I formally declare this reading-room open, and I think that the
legislature should not compel a community to provide itself with
intelligent food, but give it the privilege of providing it if the
community so desires.
If the community is anxious to have a reading-room it would put its hand
in its pocket and bring out the penny tax. I think it a proof of the
healthy, moral, financial, and mental condition of the community if it
taxes itself for its mental food.
A reading-room is the proper introduction to a library, leading up
through the newspapers and magazines to other literature. What would we
do without newspapers?
Look at the rapid manner in which the news of the Galveston disaster was
made known to the entire world. This reminds me of an episode which
occurred fifteen years ago when I was at church in Hartford, Connecticut.
The clergyman decided to make a collection for the survivors, if any.
He did not include me among the leading citizens who took the plates
around for collection. I complained to the governor of his lack of
financial trust in me, and he replied: "I would trust you myself--if you
had a bell-punch."
You have paid me many compliments, and I like to listen to compliments.
I indorse all your chairman has said to you about the union of England
and America. He also alluded to my name, of which I am rather fond.
A little girl wrote me from New Zealand in a letter I received yesterday,
stating that her father said my proper name was not Mark Twain but Samuel
Clemens, but that she knew better, because Clemens was the name of the
man who sold the patent medicine, and his name was not Mark. She was
sure it was Mark Twain, because Mark is in the Bible and Twain is in the
I was very glad to get that expression of confidence in my origin, and as
I now know my name to be a scriptural one, I am not without hopes of
making it worthy.
ADDRESS AT THE ROYAL LITERARY FUND BANQUET, LONDON, MAY 4, 1900
Anthony Hope introduced Mr. Clemens to make the response to the
MR. HOPE has been able to deal adequately with this toast without
assistance from me. Still, I was born generous. If he had advanced any
theories that needed refutation or correction I would have attended to
them, and if he had made any statements stronger than those which he is
in the habit of making I would have dealt with them.
In fact, I was surprised at the mildness of his statements. I could not
have made such statements if I had preferred to, because to exaggerate is
the only way I can approximate to the truth. You cannot have a theory
without principles. Principles is another name for prejudices. I have
no prejudices in politics, religion, literature, or anything else.
I am now on my way to my own country to run for the presidency because
there are not yet enough candidates in the field, and those who have
entered are too much hampered by their own principles, which are
I propose to go there to purify the political atmosphere. I am in favor
of everything everybody is in favor of. What you should do is to satisfy
the whole nation, not half of it, for then you would only be half a
There could not be a broader platform than mine. I am in favor of
anything and everything--of temperance and intemperance, morality and
qualified immorality, gold standard and free silver.
I have tried all sorts of things, and that is why I want to by the great
position of ruler of a country. I have been in turn reporter, editor,
publisher, author, lawyer, burglar. I have worked my way up, and wish to
continue to do so.
I read to-day in a magazine article that Christendom issued last year
fifty-five thousand new books. Consider what that means! Fifty-five
thousand new books meant fifty-four thousand new authors. We are going
to have them all on our hands to take care of sooner or later.
Therefore, double your subscriptions to the literary fund!
DISAPPEARANCE OF LITERATURE
ADDRESS AT THE DINNER OF THE NINETEENTH CENTURY CLUB, AT
SHERRY'S, NEW YORK, NOVEMBER 20, 1900
Mr. Clemens spoke to the toast "The Disappearance of
Literature." Doctor Gould presided, and in introducing
Mr. Clemens said that he (the speaker), when in Germany, had to
do a lot of apologizing for a certain literary man who was
taking what the Germans thought undue liberties with their
It wasn't necessary for your chairman to apologize for me in Germany.
It wasn't necessary at all. Instead of that he ought to have impressed
upon those poor benighted Teutons the service I rendered them. Their
language had needed untangling for a good many years. Nobody else seemed
to want to take the job, and so I took it, and I flatter myself that I
made a pretty good job of it. The Germans have an inhuman way of cutting
up their verbs. Now a verb has a hard time enough of it in this world
when it's all together. It's downright inhuman to split it up. But
that's just what those Germans do. They take part of a verb and put it
down here, like a stake, and they take the other part of it and put it
away over yonder like another stake, and between these two limits they
just shovel in German. I maintain that there is no necessity for
apologizing for a man who helped in a small way to stop such mutilation.
We have heard a discussion to-night on the disappearance of literature.
That's no new thing. That's what certain kinds of literature have been
doing for several years. The fact is, my friends, that the fashion in
literature changes, and the literary tailors have to change their cuts or
go out of business. Professor Winchester here, if I remember fairly
correctly what he said, remarked that few, if any, of the novels produced
to-day would live as long as the novels of Walter Scott. That may be his
notion. Maybe he is right; but so far as I am concerned, I don't care if
Professor Winchester also said something about there being no modern
epics like Paradise Lost. I guess he's right. He talked as if he was
pretty familiar with that piece of literary work, and nobody would
suppose that he never had read it. I don't believe any of you have ever
read Paradise Lost, and you don't want to. That's something that you
just want to take on trust. It's a classic, just as Professor Winchester
says, and it meets his definition of a classic--something that everybody
wants to have read and nobody wants to read.
Professor Trent also had a good deal to say about the disappearance of
literature. He said that Scott would outlive all his critics. I guess
that's true. The fact of the business is, you've got to be one of two
ages to appreciate Scott. When you're eighteen you can read Ivanhoe, and
you want to wait until you are ninety to read some of the rest. It takes
a pretty well-regulated, abstemious critic to live ninety years.
But as much as these two gentlemen have talked about the disappearance of
literature, they didn't say anything about my books. Maybe they think
they've disappeared. If they do, that just shows their ignorance on the
general subject of literature. I am not as young as I was several years
ago, and maybe I'm not so fashionable, but I'd be willing to take my
chances with Mr. Scott to-morrow morning in selling a piece of literature
to the Century Publishing Company. And I haven't got much of a pull
here, either. I often think that the highest compliment ever paid to my
poor efforts was paid by Darwin through President Eliot, of Harvard
College. At least, Eliot said it was a compliment, and I always take the
opinion of great men like college presidents on all such subjects as
I went out to Cambridge one day a few years ago and called on President
Eliot. In the course of the conversation he said that he had just
returned from England, and that he was very much touched by what he
considered the high compliment Darwin was paying to my books, and he went
on to tell me something like this:
"Do you know that there is one room in Darwin's house, his bedroom, where
the housemaid is never allowed to touch two things? One is a plant
he is growing and studying while it grows" (it was one of those
insect-devouring plants which consumed bugs and beetles and things for the
particular delectation of Mr. Darwin) "and the other some books that lie
on the night table at the head of his bed. They are your books, Mr.
Clemens, and Mr. Darwin reads them every night to lull him to sleep."
My friends, I thoroughly appreciated that compliment, and considered it
the highest one that was ever paid to me. To be the means of soothing to
sleep a brain teeming with bugs and squirming things like Darwin's was
something that I had never hoped for, and now that he is dead I never
hope to be able to do it again.
THE NEW YORK PRESS CLUB DINNER
AT THE ANNUAL DINNER, NOVEMBER 13, 1900
Col. William L. Brown, the former editor of the Daily News, as
president of the club, introduced Mr. Clemens as the principal
ornament of American literature.
I must say that I have already begun to regret that I left my gun at
home. I've said so many times when a chairman has distressed me with
just such compliments that the next time such a thing occurs I will
certainly use a gun on that chairman. It is my privilege to compliment
him in return. You behold before you a very, very old man. A cursory
glance at him would deceive the most penetrating. His features seem to
reveal a person dead to all honorable instincts--they seem to bear the
traces of all the known crimes, instead of the marks of a life spent for
the most part, and now altogether, in the Sunday-school of a life that
may well stand as an example to all generations that have risen or will
riz--I mean to say, will rise. His private character is altogether
suggestive of virtues which to all appearances he has got. If you
examine his past history you will find it as deceptive as his features,
because it is marked all over with waywardness and misdemeanor--mere
effects of a great spirit upon a weak body--mere accidents of a great
career. In his heart he cherishes every virtue on the list of virtues,
and he practises them all--secretly--always secretly. You all know him
so well that there is no need for him to be introduced here. Gentlemen,
THE ALPHABET AND SIMPLIFIED SPELLING
ADDRESS AT THE DINNER GIVEN TO MR. CARNEGIE AT THE DEDICATION
OF THE NEW YORK ENGINEERS' CLUB, DECEMBER 9, 1907
Mr. Clemens was introduced by the president of the club, who,
quoting from the Mark Twain autobiography, recalled the day
when the distinguished writer came to New York with $3 in small
change in his pockets and a $10 bill sewed in his clothes.
It seems to me that I was around here in the neighborhood of the Public
Library about fifty or sixty years ago. I don't deny the circumstance,
although I don't see how you got it out of my autobiography, which was
not to be printed until I am dead, unless I'm dead now. I had that $3 in
change, and I remember well the $10 which was sewed in my coat. I have
prospered since. Now I have plenty of money and a disposition to
squander it, but I can't. One of those trust companies is taking care of
Now, as this is probably the last time that I shall be out after
nightfall this winter, I must say that I have come here with a mission,
and I would make my errand of value.
Many compliments have been paid to Mr. Carnegie to-night. I was
expecting them. They are very gratifying to me.
I have been a guest of honor myself, and I know what Mr. Carnegie is
experiencing now. It is embarrassing to get compliments and compliments
and only compliments, particularly when he knows as well as the rest of
us that on the other side of him there are all sorts of things worthy of
Just look at Mr. Carnegie's face. It is fairly scintillating with
fictitious innocence. You would think, looking at him, that he had never
committed a crime in his life. But no--look at his pestiferious
simplified spelling. You can't any of you imagine what a crime that has
been. Torquemada was nothing to Mr. Carnegie. That old fellow shed some
blood in the Inquisition, but Mr. Carnegie has brought destruction to the
entire race. I know he didn't mean it to be a crime, but it was, just
the same. He's got us all so we can't spell anything.
The trouble with him is that he attacked orthography at the wrong end.
He meant well, but he, attacked the symptoms and not the cause of the
disease. He ought to have gone to work on the alphabet. There's not a
vowel in it with a definite value, and not a consonant that you can hitch
anything to. Look at the "h's" distributed all around. There's
"gherkin." What are you going to do with the "h" in that? What the
devil's the use of "h" in gherkin, I'd like to know. It's one thing I
admire the English for: they just don't mind anything about them at all.
But look at the "pneumatics" and the "pneumonias" and the rest of them.
A real reform would settle them once and for all, and wind up by giving
us an alphabet that we wouldn't have to spell with at all, instead of
this present silly alphabet, which I fancy was invented by a drunken
thief. Why, there isn't a man who doesn't have to throw out about
fifteen hundred words a day when he writes his letters because he can't
spell them! It's like trying to do a St. Vitus's dance with wooden legs.
Now I'll bet there isn't a man here who can spell "pterodactyl," not even
the prisoner at the bar. I'd like to hear him try once--but not in
public, for it's too near Sunday, when all extravagant histrionic
entertainments are barred. I'd like to hear him try in private, and when
he got through trying to spell "pterodactyl" you wouldn't know whether it
was a fish or a beast or a bird, and whether it flew on its legs or
walked with its wings. The chances are that he would give it tusks and
make it lay eggs.
Let's get Mr. Carnegie to reform the alphabet, and we'll pray for him
--if he'll take the risk. If we had adequate, competent vowels, with a
system of accents, giving to each vowel its own soul and value, so every
shade of that vowel would be shown in its accent, there is not a word in
any tongue that we could not spell accurately. That would be competent,
adequate, simplified spelling, in contrast to the clipping, the hair
punching, the carbuncles, and the cancers which go by the name of
simplified spelling. If I ask you what b-o-w spells you can't tell me
unless you know which b-o-w I mean, and it is the same with r-o-w,
b-o-r-e, and the whole family of words which were born out of lawful
wedlock and don't know their own origin.
Now, if we had an alphabet that was adequate and competent, instead of
inadequate and incompetent, things would be different. Spelling reform
has only made it bald-headed and unsightly. There is the whole tribe of
them, "row" and "read" and "lead"--a whole family who don't know who they
are. I ask you to pronounce s-o-w, and you ask me what kind of a one.
If we had a sane, determinate alphabet, instead of a hospital of
comminuted eunuchs, you would know whether one referred to the act of a
man casting the seed over the ploughed land or whether one wished to
recall the lady hog and the future ham.
It's a rotten alphabet. I appoint Mr. Carnegie to get after it, and
leave simplified spelling alone.
Simplified spelling brought about sun-spots, the San Francisco
earthquake, and the recent business depression, which we would never have
had if spelling had been left all alone.
Now, I hope I have soothed Mr. Carnegie and made him more comfortable
than he would have been had he received only compliment after compliment,
and I wish to say to him that simplified spelling is all right, but, like
chastity, you can carry it too far.
SPELLING AND PICTURES
ADDRESS AT THE ANNUAL DINNER OF THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, AT THE
WALDORF-ASTORIA, SEPTEMBER 18, 1906
I am here to make an appeal to the nations in behalf of the simplified
spelling. I have come here because they cannot all be reached except
through you. There are only two forces that can carry light to all the
corners of the globe--only two--the sun in the heavens and the Associated
Press down here. I may seem to be flattering the sun, but I do not mean
it so; I am meaning only to be just and fair all around. You speak with
a million voices; no one can reach so many races, so many hearts and
intellects, as you--except Rudyard Kipling, and he cannot do it without
your help. If the Associated Press will adopt and use our simplified
forms, and thus spread them to the ends of the earth, covering the whole
spacious planet with them as with a garden of flowers, our difficulties
are at an end.
Every day of the three hundred and sixty-five the only pages of the
world's countless newspapers that are read by all the human beings and
angels and devils that can read, are these pages that are built out of
Associated Press despatches. And so I beg you, I beseech you--oh, I
implore you to spell them in our simplified forms. Do this daily,
constantly, persistently, for three months--only three months--it is all
I ask. The infallible result?--victory, victory all down the line. For
by that time all eyes here and above and below will have become adjusted
to the change and in love with it, and the present clumsy and ragged
forms will be grotesque to the eye and revolting to the soul. And we
shall be rid of phthisis and phthisic and pneumonia and pneumatics, and
diphtheria and pterodactyl, and all those other insane words which no man
addicted to the simple Christian life can try to spell and not lose some
of the bloom of his piety in the demoralizing attempt. Do not doubt it.
We are chameleons, and our partialities and prejudices change places with
an easy and blessed facility, and we are soon wonted to the change and
happy in it. We do not regret our old, yellow fangs and snags and tushes
after we have worn nice, fresh, uniform store teeth a while.
Do I seem to be seeking the good of the world? That is the idea. It is
my public attitude; privately I am merely seeking my own profit. We all
do it, but it is sound and it is virtuous, for no public interest is
anything other or nobler than a massed accumulation of private interests.
In 1883, when the simplified-spelling movement first tried to make a
noise, I was indifferent to it; more--I even irreverently scoffed at it.
What I needed was an object-lesson, you see. It is the only way to teach
some people. Very well, I got it. At that time I was scrambling along,
earning the family's bread on magazine work at seven cents a word,
compound words at single rates, just as it is in the dark present.
I was the property of a magazine, a seven-cent slave under a boiler-iron
contract. One day there came a note from the editor requiring me to
write ten pages--on this revolting text: "Considerations concerning the
alleged subterranean holophotal extemporaneousness of the conchyliaceous
superimbrication of the Ornithorhyncus, as foreshadowed by the
unintelligibility of its plesiosaurian anisodactylous aspects."
Ten pages of that. Each and every word a seventeen-jointed vestibuled
railroad train. Seven cents a word. I saw starvation staring the family
in the face. I went to the editor, and I took a stenographer along so as
to have the interview down in black and white, for no magazine editor can
ever remember any part of a business talk except the part that's got
graft in it for him and the magazine. I said, "Read that text, Jackson,
and let it go on the record; read it out loud." He read it:
"Considerations concerning the alleged subterranean holophotal
extemporaneousness of the conchyliaceous superimbrication of the
Ornithorhyncus, as foreshadowed by the unintelligibility of its
plesiosaurian anisodactylous aspects."
I said, "You want ten pages of those rumbling, great, long, summer
thunderpeals, and you expect to get them at seven cents a peal?"
He said, "A word's a word, and seven cents is the contract; what are you
going to do about it?"
I said, "Jackson, this is cold-blooded oppression. What's an average
He said, "Six letters."
I said, "Nothing of the kind; that's French, and includes the spaces
between the words; an average English word is four letters and a half.
By hard, honest labor I've dug all the large words out of my vocabulary
and shaved it down till the average is three letters and a half. I can
put one thousand and two hundred words on your page, and there's not
another man alive that can come within two hundred of it. My page is
worth eighty-four dollars to me. It takes exactly as long to fill your
magazine page with long words as it does with short ones-four hours.
Now, then, look at the criminal injustice of this requirement of yours.
I am careful, I am economical of my time and labor. For the family's
sake I've got to be so. So I never write 'metropolis' for seven cents,
because I can get the same money for 'city.' I never write 'policeman,'
because I can get the same price for 'cop.' And so on and so on. I never
write 'valetudinarian' at all, for not even hunger and wretchedness can
humble me to the point where I will do a word like that for seven cents;
I wouldn't do it for fifteen. Examine your obscene text, please; count
He counted and said it was twenty-four. I asked him to count the
letters. He made it two hundred and three.
I said, "Now, I hope you see the whole size of your crime. With my
vocabulary I would make sixty words out of those two hundred and five
letters, and get four dollars and twenty cents for it; whereas for your
inhuman twenty-four I would get only one dollar and sixty-eight cents.
Ten pages of these sky-scrapers of yours would pay me only about three
hundred dollars; in my simplified vocabulary the same space and the same
labor would pay me eight hundred and forty dollars. I do not wish to
work upon this scandalous job by the piece. I want to be hired by the
year." He coldly refused. I said:
"Then for the sake of the family, if you have no feeling for me, you
ought at least to allow me overtime on that word extemporaneousness."
Again he coldly refused. I seldom say a harsh word to any one, but I was
not master of myself then, and I spoke right out and called him an
anisodactylous plesiosaurian conchyliaceous Ornithorhyncus, and rotten to
the heart with holoaophotal subterranean extemporaneousness. God forgive
me for that wanton crime; he lived only two hours.
From that day to this I have been a devoted and hard-working member of
the heaven-born institution, the International Association for the
Prevention of Cruelty to Authors, and now I am laboring with Carnegie's
Simplified Committee, and with my heart in the work . . . .
Now then, let us look at this mighty question reasonably, rationally,
sanely--yes, and calmly, not excitedly. What is the real function, the
essential function, the supreme function, of language? Isn't it merely
to convey ideas and emotions? Certainly. Then if we can do it with
words of fonetic brevity and compactness, why keep the present cumbersome
forms? But can we? Yes. I hold in my hand the proof of it. Here is a
letter written by a woman, right out of her heart of hearts. I think she
never saw a spelling-book in her life. The spelling is her own. There
isn't a waste letter in it anywhere. It reduces the fonetics to the last
gasp--it squeezes the surplusage out of every word--there's no spelling
that can begin with it on this planet outside of the White House. And as
for the punctuation, there isn't any. It is all one sentence, eagerly
and breathlessly uttered, without break or pause in it anywhere. The
letter is absolutely genuine--I have the proofs of that in my possession.
I can't stop to spell the words for you, but you can take the letter
presently and comfort your eyes with it. I will read the letter:
"Miss dear freind I took some Close into the armerry and give them to you
to Send too the suffrers out to California and i Hate to treble you but i
got to have one of them Back it was a black oll wolle Shevyott With a
jacket to Mach trimed Kind of Fancy no 38 Burst measure and palsy
menterry acrost the front And the color i woodent Trubble you but it
belonged to my brothers wife and she is Mad about it i thoght she was
willin but she want she says she want done with it and she was going to
Wear it a Spell longer she ant so free harted as what i am and she Has
got more to do with Than i have having a Husband to Work and slave For
her i gels you remember Me I am shot and stout and light complected i
torked with you quite a spell about the suffrars and said it was orful
about that erth quake I shoodent wondar if they had another one rite off
seeine general Condision of the country is Kind of Explossive i hate to
take that Black dress away from the suffrars but i will hunt round And
see if i can get another One if i can i will call to the armerry for it
if you will jest lay it asside so no more at present from your True
"i liked your
appearance very Much"
Now you see what simplified spelling can do.
It can convey any fact you need to convey; and it can pour out emotions
like a sewer. I beg you, I beseech you, to adopt our spelling, and print
all your despatches in it.
Now I wish to say just one entirely serious word:
I have reached a time of life, seventy years and a half, where none of
the concerns of this world have much interest for me personally. I think
I can speak dispassionately upon this matter, because in the little while
that I have got to remain here I can get along very well with these
old-fashioned forms, and I don't propose to make any trouble about it at
all. I shall soon be where they won't care how I spell so long as I keep
There are eighty-two millions of us people that use this orthography, and
it ought to be simplified in our behalf, but it is kept in its present
condition to satisfy one million people who like to have their literature
in the old form. That looks to me to be rather selfish, and we keep the
forms as they are while we have got one million people coming in here
from foreign countries every year and they have got to struggle with this
orthography of ours, and it keeps them back and damages their citizenship
for years until they learn to spell the language, if they ever do learn.
This is merely sentimental argument.
People say it is the spelling of Chaucer and Spencer and Shakespeare and
a lot of other people who do not know how to spell anyway, and it has
been transmitted to us and we preserved it and wish to preserve it
because of its ancient and hallowed associations.
Now, I don't see that there is any real argument about that. If that
argument is good, then it would be a good argument not to banish the
flies and the cockroaches from hospitals because they have been there so
long that the patients have got used to them and they feel a tenderness
for them on account of the associations. Why, it is like preserving a
cancer in a family because it is a family cancer, and we are bound to it
by the test of affection and reverence and old, mouldy antiquity.
I think that this declaration to improve this orthography of ours is our
family cancer, and I wish we could reconcile ourselves to have it cut out
and let the family cancer go.
Now, you see before you the wreck and ruin of what was once a young
person like yourselves. I am exhausted by the heat of the day. I must
take what is left of this wreck and run out of your presence and carry it
away to my home and spread it out there and sleep the sleep of the
righteous. There is nothing much left of me but my age and my
righteousness, but I leave with you my love and my blessing, and may you
always keep your youth.
BOOKS AND BURGLARS
ADDRESS TO THE REDDING (CONN.) LIBRARY ASSOCIATION,
OCTOBER 28, 1908
Suppose this library had been in operation a few weeks ago, and the
burglars who happened along and broke into my house--taking a lot of
things they didn't need, and for that matter which I didn't need--had
first made entry into this institution.
Picture them seated here on the floor, poring by the light of their
dark-lanterns over some of the books they found, and thus absorbing moral
truths and getting a moral uplift. The whole course of their lives would
have been changed. As it was, they kept straight on in their immoral way
and were sent to jail.
For all we know, they may next be sent to Congress.
And, speaking of burglars, let us not speak of them too harshly. Now, I
have known so many burglars--not exactly known, but so many of them have
come near me in my various dwelling-places, that I am disposed to allow
them credit for whatever good qualities they possess.
Chief among these, and, indeed, the only one I just now think of, is
their great care while doing business to avoid disturbing people's sleep.
Noiseless as they may be while at work, however, the effect of their
visitation is to murder sleep later on.
Now we are prepared for these visitors. All sorts of alarm devices have
been put in the house, and the ground for half a mile around it has been
electrified. The burglar who steps within this danger zone will set
loose a bedlam of sounds, and spring into readiness for action our
elaborate system of defences. As for the fate of the trespasser, do not
seek to know that. He will never be heard of more.
ADDRESS AT THE DINNER GIVEN IN HONOR OF MR. CLEMENS, LONDON,
Mr. Clemens was introduced by Sir Walter Besant.
It does not embarrass me to hear my books praised so much. It only
pleases and delights me. I have not gone beyond the age when
embarrassment is possible, but I have reached the age when I know how to
conceal it. It is such a satisfaction to me to hear Sir Walter Besant,
who is much more capable than I to judge of my work, deliver a judgment
which is such a contentment to my spirit.
Well, I have thought well of the books myself, but I think more of them
now. It charms me also to hear Sir Spencer Walpole deliver a similar
judgment, and I shall treasure his remarks also. I shall not discount
the praises in any possible way. When I report them to my family they
shall lose nothing. There are, however, certain heredities which come
down to us which our writings of the present day may be traced to.
I, for instance, read the Walpole Letters when I was a boy. I absorbed
them, gathered in their grace, wit, and humor, and put them away to be
used by-and-by. One does that so unconsciously with things one really
likes. I am reminded now of what use those letters have been to me.
They must not claim credit in America for what was really written in
another form so long ago. They must only claim that I trimmed this,
that, and the other, and so changed their appearance as to make them seem
to be original. You now see what modesty I have in stock. But it has
taken long practice to get it there.
But I must not stand here talking. I merely meant to get up and give my
thanks for the pleasant things that preceding speakers have said of me.
I wish also to extend my thanks to the Authors' Club for constituting me
a member, at a reasonable price per year, and for giving me the benefit
of your legal adviser.
I believe you keep a lawyer. I have always kept a lawyer, too, though I
have never made anything out of him. It is service to an author to have
a lawyer. There is something so disagreeable in having a personal
contact with a publisher. So it is better to work through a lawyer--and
lose your case. I understand that the publishers have been meeting
together also like us. I don't know what for, but possibly they are
devising new and mysterious ways for remunerating authors. I only wish
now to thank you for electing me a member of this club--I believe I have
paid my dues--and to thank you again for the pleasant things you have
said of me.
Last February, when Rudyard Kipling was ill in America, the sympathy
which was poured out to him was genuine and sincere, and I believe that
which cost Kipling so much will bring England and America closer
together. I have been proud and pleased to see this growing affection
and respect between the two countries. I hope it will continue to grow,
and, please God, it will continue to grow. I trust we authors will leave
to posterity, if we have nothing else to leave, a friendship between
England and America that will count for much. I will now confess that
I have been engaged for the past eight days in compiling a publication.
I have brought it here to lay at your feet. I do not ask your indulgence
in presenting it, but for your applause.
Here it is: "Since England and America may be joined together in
Kipling, may they not be severed in 'Twain.'"
Address at banquet on Wednesday evening, May 20, 1908, of the
American Booksellers' Association, which included most of the
leading booksellers of America, held at the rooms of the Aldine
Association, New York.
This annual gathering of booksellers from all over America comes together
ostensibly to eat and drink, but really to discuss, business; therefore
I am required to, talk shop. I am required to furnish a statement of the
indebtedness under which I lie to you gentlemen for your help in enabling
me to earn my living. For something over forty years I have acquired my
bread by print, beginning with The Innocents Abroad, followed at
intervals of a year or so by Roughing It, Tom Sawyer, Gilded Age, and so
on. For thirty-six years my books were sold by subscription. You are
not interested in those years, but only in the four which have since
followed. The books passed into the hands of my present publishers at
the beginning of 1900, and you then became the providers of my diet.
I think I may say, without flattering you, that you have done exceedingly
well by me. Exceedingly well is not too strong a phrase, since the
official statistics show that in four years you have sold twice as many
volumes of my venerable books as my contract with my publishers bound you
and them to sell in five years. To your sorrow you are aware that
frequently, much too frequently, when a book gets to be five or ten years
old its annual sale shrinks to two or three hundred copies, and after an
added ten or twenty years ceases to sell. But you sell thousands of my
moss-backed old books every year--the youngest of them being books that
range from fifteen to twenty-seven years old, and the oldest reaching
back to thirty-five and forty.
By the terms of my contract my publishers had to account to me for,
50,000 volumes per year for five years, and pay me for them whether they
sold them or not. It is at this point that you gentlemen come in, for it
was your business to unload 250,000 volumes upon the public in five years
if you possibly could. Have you succeeded? Yes, you have--and more.
For in four years, with a year still to spare, you have sold the 250,000
volumes, and 240,000 besides.
Your sales have increased each year. In the first year you sold 90,328;
in the second year, 104,851; in the third, 133,975; in the fourth year
--which was last year--you sold 160,000. The aggregate for the four
years is 500,000 volumes, lacking 11,000.
Of the oldest book, The Innocents Abroad,--now forty years old--you sold
upward of 46,000 copies in the four years; of Roughing It--now
thirty-eight years old; I think--you sold 40,334; of Tom Sawyer, 41,000.
And so on.
And there is one thing that is peculiarly gratifying to me: the Personal
Recollections of Joan of Arc is a serious book; I wrote it for love, and
never expected it to sell, but you have pleasantly disappointed me in
that matter. In your hands its sale has increased each year. In 1904
you sold 1726 copies; in 1905, 2445; in 1906, 5381; and last year, 6574.
"MARK TWAIN'S FIRST APPEARANCE"
On October 5, 1906, Mr. Clemens, following a musical recital by
his daughter in Norfolk, Conn., addressed her audience on the
subject of stage-fright. He thanked the people for making
things as easy as possible for his daughter's American debut as
a contralto, and then told of his first experience before the
My heart goes out in sympathy to any one who is making his first
appearance before an audience of human beings. By a direct process of
memory I go back forty years, less one month--for I'm older than I look.
I recall the occasion of my first appearance. San Francisco knew me then
only as a reporter, and I was to make my bow to San Francisco as a
lecturer. I knew that nothing short of compulsion would get me to the
theatre. So I bound myself by a hard-and-fast contract so that I could
not escape. I got to the theatre forty-five minutes before the hour set
for the lecture. My knees were shaking so that I didn't know whether I
could stand up. If there is an awful, horrible malady in the world, it
is stage-fright-and seasickness. They are a pair. I had stage-fright
then for the first and last time. I was only seasick once, too. It was
on a little ship on which there were two hundred other passengers.
I--was--sick. I was so sick that there wasn't any left for those other
two hundred passengers.
It was dark and lonely behind the scenes in that theatre, and I peeked
through the little peekholes they have in theatre curtains and looked
into the big auditorium. That was dark and empty, too. By-and-by it
lighted up, and the audience began to arrive.
I had got a number of friends of mine, stalwart men, to sprinkle
themselves through the audience armed with big clubs. Every time I said
anything they could possibly guess I intended to be funny they were to
pound those clubs on the floor. Then there was a kind lady in a box up
there, also a good friend of mine, the wife of the Governor. She was to
watch me intently, and whenever I glanced toward her she was going to
deliver a gubernatorial laugh that would lead the whole audience into
At last I began. I had the manuscript tucked under a United States flag
in front of me where I could get at it in case of need. But I managed to
get started without it. I walked up and down--I was young in those days
and needed the exercise--and talked and talked.
Right in the middle of the speech I had placed a gem. I had put in a
moving, pathetic part which was to get at the hearts and souls of my
hearers. When I delivered it they did just what I hoped and expected.
They sat silent and awed. I had touched them. Then I happened to glance
up at the box where the Governor's wife was--you know what happened.
Well, after the first agonizing five minutes, my stage-fright left me,
never to return. I know if I was going to be hanged I could get up and
make a good showing, and I intend to. But I shall never forget my
feelings before the agony left me, and I got up here to thank you for her
for helping my daughter, by your kindness, to live through her first
appearance. And I want to thank you for your appreciation of her
singing, which is, by-the-way, hereditary.
MORALS AND MEMORY
Mr. Clemens was the guest of honor at a reception held at
Barnard College (Columbia University), March 7, 1906, by the
Barnard Union. One of the young ladies presented Mr. Clemens,
and thanked him for his amiability in coming to make them an
address. She closed with the expression of the great joy it
gave her fellow-collegians, "because we all love you."
If any one here loves me, she has my sincere thanks. Nay, if any one
here is so good as to love me--why, I'll be a brother to her. She shall
have my sincere, warm, unsullied affection. When I was coming up in the
car with the very kind young lady who was delegated to show me the way,
she asked me what I was going to talk about. And I said I wasn't sure.
I said I had some illustrations, and I was going to bring them in.
I said I was certain to give those illustrations, but that I hadn't the
faintest notion what they were going to illustrate.
Now, I've been thinking it over in this forest glade [indicating the
woods of Arcady on the scene setting], and I've decided to work them in
with something about morals and the caprices of memory. That seems to me
to be a pretty good subject. You see, everybody has a memory and it's
pretty sure to have caprices. And, of course, everybody has morals.
It's my opinion that every one I know has morals, though I wouldn't like
to ask. I know I have. But I'd rather teach them than practice them any
day. "Give them to others"--that's my motto. Then you never have any
use for them when you're left without. Now, speaking of the caprices of
memory in general, and of mine in particular, it's strange to think of
all the tricks this little mental process plays on us. Here we're
endowed with a faculty of mind that ought to be more supremely
serviceable to us than them all. And what happens? This memory of ours
stores up a perfect record of the most useless facts and anecdotes and
experiences. And all the things that we ought to know--that we need to
know--that we'd profit by knowing--it casts aside with the careless
indifference of a girl refusing her true lover. It's terrible to think
of this phenomenon. I tremble in all my members when I consider all the
really valuable things that I've forgotten in seventy years--when I
meditate upon the caprices of my memory.
There's a bird out in California that is one perfect symbol of the human
memory. I've forgotten the bird's name (just because it would be
valuable for me to know it--to recall it to your own minds, perhaps).
But this fool of a creature goes around collecting the most ridiculous
things you can imagine and storing them up. He never selects a thing
that could ever prove of the slightest help to him; but he goes about
gathering iron forks, and spoons, and tin cans, and broken mouse-traps
--all sorts of rubbish that is difficult for him to carry and yet be any
use when he gets it. Why, that bird will go by a gold watch to bring
back one of those patent cake-pans.
Now, my mind is just like that, and my mind isn't very different from
yours--and so our minds are just like that bird. We pass by what would
be of inestimable value to us, and pack our memories with the most
trivial odds and ends that never by any chance; under any circumstances
whatsoever, could be of the slightest use to any one.
Now, things that I have remembered are constantly popping into my head.
And I am repeatedly startled by the vividness with which they recur to me
after the lapse of years and their utter uselessness in being remembered
I was thinking over some on my way up here. They were the illustrations
I spoke about to the young lady on the way up. And I've come to the
conclusion, curious though it is, that I can use every one of these
freaks of memory to teach you all a lesson. I'm convinced that each one
has its moral. And I think it's my duty to hand the moral on to you.
Now, I recall that when I was a boy I was a good boy--I was a very good
boy. Why, I was the best boy in my school. I was the best boy in that
little Mississippi town where I lived. The population was only about
twenty million. You may not believe it, but I was the best boy in that
State--and in the United States, for that matter.
But I don't know why I never heard any one say that but myself. I always
recognized it. But even those nearest and dearest to me couldn't seem to
see it. My mother, especially, seemed to think there was something wrong
with that estimate. And she never got over that prejudice.
Now, when my mother got to be eighty-five years old her memory failed
her. She forgot little threads that hold life's patches of meaning
together. She was living out West then, and I went on to visit her.
I hadn't seen my mother in a year or so. And when I got there she knew
my face; knew I was married; knew I had a family, and that I was living
with them. But she couldn't, for the life of her, tell my name or who I
was. So I told her I was her boy.
"But you don't live with me," she said.
"No," said I, "I'm living in Rochester."
"What are you doing there?"
"Going to school."
"And how do you stand?" said my mother.
"I'm the best boy in that school," I answered.
"Well," said my mother, with a return of her old fire, "I'd like to know
what the other boys are like."
Now, one point in this story is the fact that my mother's mind went back
to my school days, and remembered my little youthful self-prejudice when
she'd forgotten everything else about me.
The other point is the moral. There's one there that you will find if
you search for it.
Now, here's something else I remember. It's about the first time I ever
stole a watermelon. "Stole" is a strong word. Stole? Stole? No, I
don't mean that. It was the first time I ever withdrew a watermelon.
It was the first time I ever extracted a watermelon. That is exactly the
word I want--"extracted." It is definite. It is precise. It perfectly
conveys my idea. Its use in dentistry connotes the delicate shade of
meaning I am looking for. You know we never extract our own teeth.
And it was not my watermelon that I extracted. I extracted that
watermelon from a farmer's wagon while he was inside negotiating with an
other customer. I carried that watermelon to one of the secluded
recesses of the lumber-yard, and there I broke it open.
It was a green watermelon.
Well, do you know when I saw that I began to feel sorry--sorry--sorry.
It seemed to me that I had done wrong. I reflected deeply. I reflected
that I was young--I think I was just eleven. But I knew that though
immature I did not lack moral advancement. I knew what a boy ought to do
who had extracted a watermelon--like that.
I considered George Washington, and what action he would have taken under
similar circumstances. Then I knew there was just one thing to make me
feel right inside, and that was--Restitution.
So I said to myself: "I will do that. I will take that green watermelon
back where I got it from." And the minute I had said it I felt that
great moral uplift that comes to you when you've made a noble resolution.
So I gathered up the biggest fragments, and I carried them back to the
farmer's wagon, and I restored the watermelon--what was left of it. And
I made him give me a good one in place of it, too.
And I told him he ought to be ashamed of himself going around working off
his worthless, old, green watermelons on trusting purchasers who had to
rely on him. How could they tell from the outside whither the melons
were good or not? That was his business. And if he didn't reform, I
told him I'd see that he didn't get any more of my trade--nor anybody,
else's I knew, if I could help it.
You know that man was as contrite as a revivalist's last convert.
He said he was all broken up to think I'd gotten a green watermelon.
He promised the he would never carry another green watermelon if he
starved for it. And he drove off--a better man.
Now, do you see what I did for that man? He was on a downward path, and
I rescued him. But all I got out of it was a watermelon.
Yet I'd rather have that memory--just that memory of the good I did for
that depraved farmer--than all the material gain you can think of. Look
at the lesson he got! I never got anything like that from it. But I
ought to be satisfied: I was only eleven years old, but I secured
everlasting benefit to other people.
The moral in this is perfectly clear, and I think there's one in they
next memory I'm going to tell you about.
To go back to my childhood, there's another little incident that comes to
me from which you can draw even another moral. It's about one of the
times I went fishing. You see, in our house there was a sort of family
prejudice against going fishing if you hadn't permission. But it would
frequently be bad judgment to ask. So I went fishing secretly, as it
were--way up the Mississippi. It was an exquisitely happy trip, I
recall, with a very pleasant sensation.
Well, while I was away there was a tragedy in our town. A stranger,
stopping over on his way East from California; was stabbed to death in an
Now; my father was justice of the peace, and because he was justice of
the peace he was coroner; and since he was coroner he was also constable;
and being constable he was sheriff; and out of consideration for his
holding the office of sheriff he was likewise county clerk and a dozen
other officials I don't think of just this minute.
I thought he had power of life or death, only he didn't use it over other
boys. He was sort of an austere man. Somehow I didn't like being round
him when I'd done anything he, disapproved of. So that's the reason I
wasn't often around.
Well, when this gentleman got knifed they communicated with the proper
authority; the coroner, and they laid, the corpse out in the coroner's
office--our front sitting-room--in preparation for the inquest the next
About 9 or 10 o'clock I got back from fishing. It was a little too late
for me to be received by my folks, so I took my shoes off and slipped
noiselessly up the back way to the sitting-room. I was very tired, and I
didn't wish to disturb my people. So I groped my way to the sofa and lay
Now, I didn't know anything of what had happened during my absence.
But I was sort of nervous on my own account-afraid of being caught,
and rather dubious about the morning affair. And I had been lying there
a few moments when my eyes gradually got used to the darkness, and I
became aware of something on the other side of the room.
It was something foreign to the apartment. It had an uncanny appearance.
And I sat up looking very hard, and wondering what in heaven this long,
formless, vicious-looking thing might be.
First I thought I'd go and see. Then I thought, "Never mind that."
Mind you, I had no cowardly sensations whatever, but it didn't seem
exactly prudent to investigate. But I somehow couldn't keep my eyes off
the thing. And the more I looked at it the more disagreeably it grew on
me. But I was resolved to play the man. So I decided to turn over and
count a hundred, and let the patch of moonlight creep up and show me what
the dickens it was.
I turned over and tried to count, but I couldn't keep my mind on it.
I kept thinking of that grewsome mass. I was losing count all the time,
and going back and beginning over again. Oh no; I wasn't frightened
--just annoyed. But by the time I'd gotten to the century mark I turned
cautiously over and opened my eyes with great fortitude.
The moonlight revealed to me a marble-white human hand. Well, maybe I
wasn't embarrassed! But then that changed to a creepy feeling again, and
I thought I'd try the counting again. I don't know how many hours or
weeks it was that I lay there counting hard. But the moonlight crept up
that white arm, and it showed me a lead face and a terrible wound over
I could scarcely say that I was terror-stricken or anything like that.
But somehow his eyes interested me so that I went right out of the
window. I didn't need the sash. But it seemed easier to take it than
leave it behind.
Now, let that teach you a lesson--I don't know just what it is. But at
seventy years old I find that memory of peculiar value to me. I have
been unconsciously guided by it all these years. Things that seemed
pigeon-holed and remote are a perpetual influence. Yes, you're taught in
so many ways. And you're so felicitously taught when you don't know it.
Here's something else that taught me a good deal.
When I was seventeen I was very bashful, and a sixteen-year-old girl came
to stay a week with us. She was a peach, and I was seized with a
happiness not of this world.
One evening my mother suggested that, to entertain her, I take her to the
theatre. I didn't really like to, because I was seventeen and sensitive
about appearing in the streets with a girl. I couldn't see my way to
enjoying my delight in public. But we went.
I didn't feel very happy. I couldn't seem to keep my mind on the play.
I became conscious, after a while, that that was due less to my lovely
company than my boots. They were sweet to look upon, as smooth as skin,
but fitted ten time as close. I got oblivious to the play and the girl
and the other people and everything but my boots until--I hitched one
partly off. The sensation was sensuously perfect: I couldn't help it. I
had to get the other off, partly. Then I was obliged to get them off
altogether, except that I kept my feet in the legs so they couldn't get
From that time I enjoyed the play. But the first thing I knew the
curtain came down, like that, without my notice, and--I hadn't any boots
on. What's more, they wouldn't go on. I tugged strenuously. And the
people in our row got up and fussed and said things until the peach and I
simply had to move on.
We moved--the girl on one arm and the boots under the other.
We walked home that way, sixteen blocks, with a retinue a mile long:
Every time we passed a lamp-post, death gripped one at the throat. But
we, got home--and I had on white socks.
If I live to be nine hundred and ninety-nine years old I don't suppose I
could ever forget that walk. I, remember, it about as keenly as the
chagrin I suffered on another occasion.
At one time in our domestic history we had a colored butler who had a
failing. He could never remember to ask people who came to the door to
state their business. So I used to suffer a good many calls
One morning when I was especially busy he brought me a card engraved with
a name I did not know. So I said, "What does he wish to see me for?" and
Sylvester said, "Ah couldn't ask him, sah; he, wuz a genlinun." "Return
instantly," I thundered, "and inquire his mission. Ask him what's his
game." Well, Sylvester returned with the announcement that he had
lightning-rods to sell. "Indeed," said I, "things are coming to a fine
pass when lightning-rod agents send up engraved cards." "He has
pictures," added Sylvester. "Pictures, indeed! He maybe peddling
etchings. Has he a Russia leather case?" But Sylvester was too
frightened to remember. I said; "I am going down to make it hot for that
I went down the stairs, working up my temper all the way. When I got to
the parlor I was in a fine frenzy concealed beneath a veneer of frigid
courtesy. And when I looked in the door, sure enough he had a Russia
leather case in his hand. But I didn't happen to notice that it was our
Russia leather case.
And if you'd believe me, that man was sitting with a whole gallery of
etchings spread out before him. But I didn't happen to notice that they
were our etchings, spread out by some member of my family for some
Very curtly I asked the gentleman his business. With a surprised, timid
manner he faltered that he had met my wife and daughter at Onteora, and
they had asked him to call. Fine lie, I thought, and I froze him.
He seemed to be kind of non-plussed, and sat there fingering the etchings
in the case until I told him he needn't bother, because we had those.
That pleased him so much that he leaned over, in an embarrassed way, to
pick up another from the floor. But I stopped him. I said, "We've got
that, too." He seemed pitifully amazed, but I was congratulating myself
on my great success.
Finally the gentleman asked where Mr. Winton lived; he'd met him in the
mountains, too. So I said I'd show him gladly. And I did on the spot.
And when he was gone I felt queer, because there were all his etchings
spread out on the floor.
Well, my wife came in and asked me who had been in. I showed her the
card, and told her all exultantly. To my dismay she nearly fainted. She
told me he had been a most kind friend to them in the country, and had
forgotten to tell me that he was expected our way. And she pushed me out
of the door, and commanded me to get over to the Wintons in a hurry and
get him back.
I came into the drawing-room, where Mrs. Winton was sitting up very stiff
in a chair, beating me at my own game. Well, I began, to put another
light on things. Before many seconds Mrs. Winton saw it was time to
change her temperature. In five minutes I had asked the man to luncheon,
and she to dinner, and so on.
We made that fellow change his trip and stay a week, and we gave him the
time of his life. Why, I don't believe we let him get sober the whole
I trust that you will carry away some good thought from these lessons I
have given you, and that the memory of them will inspire you to higher
things, and elevate you to plans far above the old--and--and--
And I tell you one thing, young ladies: I've had a better time with you
to-day than with that peach fifty-three years ago.
ADDRESS TO THE BRITISH SCHOOLS AND UNIVERSITIES CLUB, AT
DELMONICO'S, MONDAY, MAY 25, IN HONOR OF QUEEN VICTORIA'S
Mr. Clemens told the story of his duel with a rival editor: how
he practised firing at a barn door and failed to hit it, but a
friend of his took off the head of a little bird at thirty-five
yards and attributed the shot to Mark twain. The duel did not
take place. Mr. Clemens continued as follows:
It also happened that I was the means of stopping duelling in Nevada, for
a law was passed sending all duellists to jail for two years, and the
Governor, hearing of my marksmanship, said that if he got me I should go
to prison for the full term. That's why I left Nevada, and I have not
been there since.
You do me a high honor, indeed, in selecting me to speak of my country
in this commemoration of the birthday of that noble lady whose life was
consecrated to the virtues and the humanities and to the promotion of
lofty ideals, and was a model upon which many a humbler life was formed
and made beautiful while she lived, and upon which many such lives will
still be formed in the generations that are to come--a life which finds
its just image in the star which falls out of its place in the sky and
out of existence, but whose light still streams with unfaded lustre
across the abysses of space long after its fires have been extinguished
at their source.
As a woman the Queen was all that the most exacting standards could
require. As a far-reaching and effective beneficent moral force she had
no peer in her time among either, monarchs or commoners. As a monarch
she was without reproach in her great office. We may not venture,
perhaps, to say so sweeping a thing as this in cold blood about any
monarch that preceded her upon either her own throne or upon any other.
It is a colossal eulogy, but it is justified.
In those qualities of the heart which beget affection in all sorts and
conditions of men she was rich, surprisingly rich, and for this she will
still be remembered and revered in the far-off ages when the political
glories of her reign shall have faded from vital history and fallen to a
place in that scrap-heap of unverifiable odds and ends which we call
tradition. Which is to say, in briefer phrase, that her name will live
always. And with it her character--a fame rare in the history of
thrones, dominions, principalities, and powers, since it will not rest
upon harvested selfish and sordid ambitions, but upon love, earned and
freely vouchsafed. She mended broken hearts where she could, but she
What she did for us in America in our time of storm and stress we shall
not forget, and whenever we call it to mind we shall always remember the
wise and righteous mind that guided her in it and sustained and supported
her--Prince Albert's. We need not talk any idle talk here to-night about
either possible or impossible war between the two countries; there will
be no war while we remain sane and the son of Victoria and Albert sits
upon the throne. In conclusion, I believe I may justly claim to utter
the voice of my country in saying that we hold him in deep honor, and
also in cordially wishing him a long life and a happy reign.
JOAN OF ARC
ADDRESS AT THE DINNER OF THE SOCIETY OF ILLUSTRATORS, GIVEN AT
THE ALDINE ASSOCIATION CLUB, DECEMBER 22, 1905
Just before Mr. Clemens made his speech, a young woman attired
as Joan of Arc, with a page bearing her flag of battle,
courtesied reverently and tendered Mr. Clemens a laurel wreath
on a satin pillow. He tried to speak, but his voice failed
from excess of emotion. "I thank you!" he finally exclaimed,
and, pulling him self together, he began his speech.
Now there is an illustration [pointing to the retreating Joan of Arc].
That is exactly what I wanted--precisely what I wanted--when I was
describing to myself Joan of Arc, after studying her history and her
character for twelve years diligently.
That was the product--not the conventional Joan of Arc. Wherever you
find the conventional Joan of Arc in history she is an offence to anybody
who knows the story of that wonderful girl.
Why, she was--she was almost supreme in several details. She had a
marvellous intellect; she had a great heart, had a noble spirit, was
absolutely pure in her character, her feeling, her language, her words,
her everything--she was only eighteen years old.
Now put that heart into such a breast--eighteen years old--and give it
that masterly intellect which showed in the face, and furnish it with
that almost god-like spirit, and what are you going to have?
The conventional Joan of Arc? Not by any means. That is impossible.
I cannot comprehend any such thing as that.
You must have a creature like that young and fair and beautiful girl we
just saw. And her spirit must look out of the eyes. The figure should
be--the figure should be in harmony with all that, but, oh, what we get
in the conventional picture, and it is always the conventional picture!
I hope you will allow me to say that your guild, when you take the
conventional, you have got it at second-hand. Certainly, if you had
studied and studied, then you might have something else as a result, but
when you have the common convention you stick to that.
You cannot prevail upon the artist to do it; he always gives you a Joan
of Arc--that lovely creature that started a great career at thirteen, but
whose greatness arrived when she was eighteen; and merely, because she
was a girl he can not see the divinity in her, and so he paints a
peasant, a coarse and lubberly figure--the figure of a cotton-bale, and
he clothes that in the coarsest raiment of the peasant region just like a
fish woman, her hair cropped short like a Russian peasant, and that face
of hers, which should be beautiful and which should radiate all the
glories which are in the spirit and in her heart that expression in that
face is always just the fixed expression of a ham.
But now Mr. Beard has intimated a moment ago, and so has Sir
Purdon-Clarke also, that the artist, the illustrator, does not often
get the idea of the man whose book he is illustrating. Here is a very
remarkable instance of the other thing in Mr. Beard, who illustrated a
book of mine. You may never have heard of it. I will tell you about it
now--A Yankee in King Arthur's Court.
Now, Beard got everything that I put into that book and a little more
besides. Those pictures of Beard's in that book--oh, from the first page
to the last is one vast sardonic laugh at the trivialities, the
servilities of our poor human race, and also at the professions and the
insolence of priest-craft and king-craft--those creatures that make
slaves of themselves and have not the manliness to shake it off. Beard
put it all in that book. I meant it to be there. I put a lot of it
there and Beard put the rest.
What publisher of mine in Hartford had an eye for the pennies, and he
saved them. He did not waste any on the illustrations. He had a very
good artist--Williams--who had never taken a lesson in drawing.
Everything he did was original. The publisher hired the cheapest
wood-engraver he could find, and in my early books you can see a trace of
that. You can see that if Williams had had a chance he would have made
some very good pictures. He had a good heart and good intentions.
I had a character in the first book he illustrated--The Innocents Abroad.
That was a boy seventeen or eighteen years old--Jack Van Nostrand--a New
York boy, who, to my mind, was a very remarkable creature. He and I
tried to get Williams to understand that boy, and make a picture of Jack
that would be worthy of Jack.
Jack was a most singular combination. He was born and reared in New York
here. He was as delicate in his feelings, as clean and pure and refined
in his feelings as any lovely girl that ever was, but whenever he
expressed a feeling he did it in Bowery slang, and it was a most curious
combination--that delicacy of his and that apparent coarseness. There
was no coarseness inside of Jack at all, and Jack, in the course of
seventeen or eighteen years, had acquired a capital of ignorance that was
marvellous--ignorance of various things, not of all things. For
instance, he did not know anything about the Bible. He had never been in
Sunday-school. Jack got more out of the Holy Land than anybody else,
because the others knew what they were expecting, but it was a land of
surprises to him.
I said in the book that we found him watching a turtle on a log, stoning
that turtle, and he was stoning that turtle because he had read that "The
song of the turtle was heard in the land," and this turtle wouldn't sing.
It sounded absurd, but it was charged on Jack as a fact, and as he went
along through that country he had a proper foil in an old rebel colonel,
who was superintendent and head engineer in a large Sunday-school in
Wheeling, West Virginia. That man was full of enthusiasm wherever he
went, and would stand and deliver himself of speeches, and Jack would
listen to those speeches of the colonel and wonder.
Jack had made a trip as a child almost across this continent in the first
overland stage-coach. That man's name who ran that line of stages--well,
I declare that name is gone. Well, names will go.
Halliday--ah, that's the name--Ben Halliday, your uncle [turning to Mr.
Carnegie]. That was the fellow--Ben Halliday--and Jack was full of
admiration at the prodigious speed that that line of stages made--and it
was good speed--one hundred and twenty-five miles a day, going day and
night, and it was the event of Jack's life, and there at the Fords of the
Jordan the colonel was inspired to a speech (he was always making a
speech), so he called us up to him. He called up five sinners and three
saints. It has been only lately that Mr. Carnegie beatified me. And he
said: "Here are the Fords of the Jordan--a monumental place. At this
very point, when Moses brought the children of Israel through--he brought
the children of Israel from Egypt through the desert you see them--he
guarded them through that desert patiently, patiently during forty years,
and brought them to this spot safe and sound. There you see--there is
the scene of what Moses did."
And Jack said: "Moses who?"
"Oh," he says, "Jack, you ought not to ask that! Moses, the great
law-giver! Moses, the great patriot! Moses, the great warrior! Moses,
the great guide, who, as I tell you, brought these people through these
three hundred miles of sand in forty years, and landed there safe and
Jack said: "There's nothin' in that three hundred miles in forty years.
Ben Halliday would have snaked 'em through in thirty--six hours."
Well, I was speaking of Jack's innocence, and it was beautiful. Jack was
not ignorant on all subjects. That boy was a deep student in the history
of Anglo-Saxon liberty, and he was a patriot all the way through to the
marrow. There was a subject that interested him all the time. Other
subjects were of no concern to Jack, but that quaint, inscrutable
innocence of his I could not get Williams to put into the picture.
Yes, Williams wanted to do it. He said: "I will make him as innocent as
a virgin." He thought a moment, and then said, "I will make him as
innocent as an unborn virgin;" which covered the ground.
I was reminded of Jack because I came across a letter to-day which is
over thirty years old that Jack wrote. Jack was doomed to consumption.
He was very long and slim, poor creature; and in a year or two after he
got back from that excursion, to the Holy Land he went on a ride on
horseback through Colorado, and he did not last but a year or two.
He wrote this letter, not to me, but to a friend of mine; and he said:
"I have ridden horseback"--this was three years after--"I hate ridden
horseback four hundred miles through a desert country where you never see
anything but cattle now and then, and now and then a cattle station--ten
miles apart, twenty miles apart. Now you tell Clemens that in all that
stretch of four hundred miles I have seen only two books--the Bible and
'Innocents Abroad'. Tell Clemens the Bible was in a very good
I say that he had studied, and he had, the real Saxon liberty, the
acquirement of our liberty, and Jack used to repeat some verses--I don't
know where they came from, but I thought of them to-day when I saw that
letter--that that boy could have been talking of himself in those quoted
lines from that unknown poet:
"For he had sat at Sidney's feet
And walked with him in plain apart,
And through the centuries heard the beat
Of Freedom's march through Cromwell's heart."
And he was that kind of a boy. He should have lived, and yet he should
not have lived, because he died at that early age--he couldn't have been
more than twenty--he had seen all there was to see in the world that was
worth the trouble of living in it; he had seen all of this world that is
valuable; he had seen all of this world that was illusion, and illusion,
is the only valuable thing in it. He had arrived at that point where
presently the illusions would cease and he would have entered upon the
realities of life, and God help the man that has arrived at that point.
DELIVERED IN HARTFORD, AT A DINNER TO CORNELIUS WALFORD,
GENTLEMAN,--I am glad, indeed, to assist in welcoming the distinguished
guest of this occasion to a city whose fame as an insurance centre has
extended to all lands, and given us the name of being a quadruple band of
brothers working sweetly hand in hand--the Colt's arms company making the
destruction of our race easy and convenient, our life-insurance citizens
paying for the victims when they pass away, Mr. Batterson perpetuating
their memory with his stately monuments, and our fire-insurance comrades
taking care of their hereafter. I am glad to assist in welcoming our
guest--first, because he is an Englishman, and I owe a heavy debt of
hospitality to certain of his fellow-countrymen; and secondly, because he
is in sympathy with insurance, and has been the means of making many
other men cast their sympathies in the same direction.
Certainly there is no nobler field for human effort than the insurance
line of business--especially accident insurance. Ever since I have been
a director in an accident-insurance company I have felt that I am a
better man. Life has seemed more precious. Accidents have assumed a
kindlier aspect. Distressing special providences have lost half their
horror. I look upon a cripple now with affectionate interest--as an
advertisement. I do not seem, to care for poetry any more. I do not
care for politics--even agriculture does not excite me. But to me now
there is a charm about a railway collision that is unspeakable.
There is nothing more beneficent than accident insurance. I have seen an
entire family lifted out of poverty and into affluence by the simple boon
of a broken leg. I have had people come to me on crutches, with tears in
their eyes, to bless this beneficent institution. In all my experience
of life, I have seen nothing so seraphic as the look that comes into a
freshly mutilated man's face when he feels in his vest pocket with his
remaining hand and finds his accident ticket all right. And I have seen
nothing so sad as the look that came into another splintered customer's
face when he found he couldn't collect on a wooden leg.
I will remark here, by way of advertisement, that that noble charity
which we have named the HARTFORD ACCIDENT INSURANCE COMPANY is an
institution, which is peculiarly to be depended upon. A man is bound to
prosper who gives it his custom. No man pan take out a policy in it and
not get crippled before the year is out. Now there was one indigent man
who had been disappointed so often with other companies that he had grown
disheartened, his appetite left him, he ceased to smile--said life was
but a weariness. Three weeks ago I got him to insure with us, and now he
is the brightest, happiest spirit in this land--has a good steady income
and a stylish suit of new bandages every day, and travels around on a
I will say in conclusion, that my share of the welcome to our guest is
none the less hearty because I talk so much nonsense, and I know that I
curl say the same far the rest of the speakers.
On February 27, 1901, Mr. Clemens appeared before the Assembly
Committee in Albany, New York, in favor of the Seymour bill
legalizing the practice of osteopathy.
MR. CHAIRMAN AND GENTLEMEN,--Dr. Van Fleet is the gentleman who gave me
the character. I have heard my character discussed a thousand times
before you were born, sir, and shown the iniquities in it, and you did
not get more than half of them.
I was touched and distressed when they brought that part of a child in
here, and proved that you cannot take a child to pieces in that way.
What remarkable names those diseases have! It makes me envious of the
man that has them all. I have had many diseases, and am thankful for all
I have had.
One of the gentlemen spoke of the knowledge of something else found in
Sweden, a treatment which I took. It is, I suppose, a kindred thing.
There is apparently no great difference between them. I was a year and a
half in London and Sweden, in the hands of that grand old man, Mr.
I cannot call him a doctor, for he has not the authority to give a
certificate if a patient should die, but fortunately they don't.
The State stands as a mighty Gibraltar clothed with power. It stands
between me and my body, and tells me what kind of a doctor I must employ.
When my soul is sick unlimited spiritual liberty is given me by the
State. Now then, it doesn't seem logical that the State shall depart
from this great policy, the health of the soul, and change about and take
the other position in the matter of smaller consequence--the health of
The Bell bill limitations would drive the osteopaths out of the State.
Oh, dear me! when you drive somebody out of the State you create the same
condition as prevailed in the Garden of Eden.
You want the thing that you can't have. I didn't care much about the
osteopaths, but as soon as I found they were going to drive them out I
got in a state of uneasiness, and I can't sleep nights now.
I know how Adam felt in the Garden of Eden about the prohibited apple.
Adam didn't want the apple till he found out he couldn't have it,
just as he would have wanted osteopathy if he couldn't have it.
Whose property is my body? Probably mine. I so regard it. If I
experiment with it, who must be answerable? I, not the State. If I
choose injudiciously, does the State die? Oh no.
I was the subject of my mother's experiment. She was wise. She made
experiments cautiously. She didn't pick out just any child in the flock.
No, she chose judiciously. She chose one she could spare, and she
couldn't spare the others. I was the choice child of the flock; so I had
to take all of the experiments.
In 1844 Kneipp filled the world with the wonder of the water cure.
Mother wanted to try it, but on sober second thought she put me through.
A bucket of ice-water was poured over to see the effect. Then I was
rubbed down with flannels, sheet was dipped in the water, and I was put
to bed. I perspired so much that mother put a life-preserver to bed with
But this had nothing but a spiritual effect on me, and I didn't care for
that. When they took off the sheet it was yellow from the output of my
conscience, the exudation of sin. It purified me spiritually, and it
remains until this day.
I have experimented with osteopathy and allopathy. I took a chance at
the latter for old times' sake, for, three tines, when a boy, mother's
new methods got me so near death's door she had to call in the family
physician to pull me out.
The physicians think they are moved by regard for the best interests of
the public. Isn't there a little touch of self-interest back of it all?
It seems to me there is, and I don't claim to have all the virtues--only
nine or ten of them.
I was born in the "Banner State," and by "Banner State" I mean Missouri.
Osteopathy was born in the same State, and both of us are getting along
reasonably well. At a time during my younger days my attention was
attracted to a picture of a house which bore the inscription, "Christ
Disputing with the Doctors."
I could attach no other meaning to it than that Christ was actually
quarreling with the doctors. So I asked an old slave, who was a sort of
a herb doctor in a small way--unlicensed, of course--what the meaning of
the picture was. "What had has done?" I asked. And the colored man
replied "Humph, he ain't got no license."
Mr. Clemens visited Albany on February 21 and 28, 1901. The
privileges of the floor were granted and he was asked to make a
short address to the Senate.
MR. PRESIDENT AND GENTLEMEN,--I do not know how to thank you sufficiently
for this high honor which you are conferring upon me. I have for the
second time now enjoyed this kind of prodigal hospitality--in the other
House yesterday, to-day in this one. I am a modest man, and diffident
about appearing before legislative bodies, and yet utterly an entirely
appreciative of a courtesy like this when it is extended to me, and I
thank you very much for it.
If I had the privilege, which unfortunately I have not got, of suggesting
things to the legislators in my individual capacity, I would so enjoy the
opportunity that I would not charge anything for it at all. I would do
that without a salary. I would give them the benefit of my wisdom and
experience in legislative bodies, and if I could have had the privilege
for a few minutes of giving advice to the other House I should have liked
to, but of course I could not undertake it, as they did not ask me to do
it--but if they had only asked me!
Now that the House is considering a measure which is to furnish a
water-supply to the city of New York, why, permit me to say I live in New
York myself. I know all about its ways, its desires, and its residents,
and--if I had the privilege--I should have urged them not to weary
themselves over a measure like that to furnish water to the city of New
York, for we never drink it.
But I will not venture to advise this body, as I only venture to advise
bodies who are, not present.
ADDRESS AT THE ANNUAL "LADIES' DAY," PAPYRUS CLUB, BOSTON
LADIES AND GENTLEMEN,--I am perfectly astonished--a-s-t-o-n-i-s-h-e-d
--ladies and gentlemen--astonished at the way history repeats itself.
I find myself situated at this moment exactly and precisely as I was once
before, years ago, to a jot, to a tittle--to a very hair. There isn't a
shade of difference. It is the most astonishing coincidence that ever
--but wait. I will tell you the former instance, and then you will see
it for yourself. Years ago I arrived one day at Salamanca, New York,
eastward bound; must change cars there and take the sleeper train. There
were crowds of people there, and they were swarming into the long sleeper
train and packing it full, and it was a perfect purgatory of dust and
confusion and gritting of teeth and soft, sweet, and low profanity.
I asked the young man in the ticket-office if I could have a
sleeping-section, and he answered "No," with a snarl that shrivelled me
up like burned leather. I went off, smarting under this insult to my
dignity, and asked another local official, supplicatingly, if I couldn't
have some poor little corner somewhere in a sleeping-car; but he cut me
short with a venomous "No, you can't; every corner is full. Now, don't
bother me any more"; and he turned his back and walked off. My dignity
was in a state now which cannot be described. I was so ruffled that
--"well," I said to my companion, "If these people knew who I am they--"
But my companion cut me short there--"Don't talk such folly," he said;
"if they did know who you are, do you suppose it would help your
high-mightiness to a vacancy in a train which has no vacancies in it?"
This did not improve my condition any to speak of, but just then I
observed that the colored porter of a sleeping-car had his eye on me.
I saw his dark countenance light up. He whispered to the uniformed
conductor, punctuating with nods and jerks toward me, and straightway
this conductor came forward, oozing politeness from every pore.
"Can I be of any service to you?" he asked. "Will you have a place in
"Yes," I said, "and much oblige me, too. Give me anything--anything will
"We have nothing left but the big family state-room," he continued, "with
two berths and a couple of arm-chairs in it, but it is entirely at your
disposal. Here, Tom, take these satchels aboard!"
Then he touched his hat and we and the colored Tom moved along. I was
bursting to drop just one little remark to my companion, but I held in
and waited. Tom made us comfortable in that sumptuous great apartment,
and then said, with many bows and a perfect affluence of smiles:
"Now, is dey anything you want, sah? Case you kin have jes' anything you
wants. It don't make no difference what it is."
"Can I have some hot water and a tumbler at nine to-night-blazing hot?"
I asked. "You know about the right temperature for a hot Scotch punch?"
"Yes, sah, dat you kin; you kin pen on it; I'll get it myself."
"Good! Now, that lamp is hung too high. Can I have a big coach candle
fixed up just at the head of my bed, so that I can read comfortably?"
"Yes, sah, you kin; I'll fix her up myself, an' I'll fix her so she'll
burn all night. Yes, sah; an' you can jes' call for anything you want,
and dish yer whole railroad'll be turned wrong end up an' inside out for
to get it for you. Dat's so." And he disappeared.
Well, I tilted my head back, hooked my thumbs in my armholes, smiled a
smile on my companion, and said, gently:
"Well, what do you say now?"
My companion was not in the humor to respond, and didn't. The next
moment that smiling black face was thrust in at the crack of the door,
and this speech followed:
"Laws bless you, sah, I knowed you in a minute. I told de conductah so.
Laws! I knowed you de minute I sot eyes on you."
"Is that so, my boy?" (Handing him a quadruple fee.) "Who am I?"
"Jenuel McClellan," and he disappeared again.
My companion said, vinegarishly, "Well, well! what do you say now?"
Right there comes in the marvellous coincidence I mentioned a while ago
--viz., I was speechless, and that is my condition now. Perceive it?
CATS AND CANDY
The following address was delivered at a social meeting of
literary men in New York in 1874:
When I was fourteen I was living with my parents, who were very poor--and
correspondently honest. We had a youth living with us by the name of Jim
Wolfe. He was an excellent fellow, seventeen years old, and very
diffident. He and I slept together--virtuously; and one bitter winter's
night a cousin Mary--she's married now and gone--gave what they call a
candy-pulling in those days in the West, and they took the saucers of hot
candy outside of the house into the snow, under a sort of old bower that
came from the eaves--it was a sort of an ell then, all covered with
vines--to cool this hot candy in the snow, and they were all sitting
there. In the mean time we were gone to bed. We were not invited to
attend this party; we were too young.
The young ladies and gentlemen were assembled there, and Jim and I were
in bed. There was about four inches of snow on the roof of this ell, and
our windows looked out on it; and it was frozen hard. A couple of
tom-cats--it is possible one might have been of the opposite sex--were
assembled on the chimney in the middle of this ell, and they were
growling at a fearful rate, and switching their tails about and going on,
and we couldn't sleep at all.
Finally Jim said, "For two cents I'd go out and snake them cats off that
chimney." So I said, "Of course you would." He said, "Well, I would;
I have a mighty good notion to do it." Says I, "Of course you have;
certainly you have, you have a great notion to do it." I hoped he might
try it, but I was afraid he wouldn't.
Finally I did get his ambition up, and he raised the window and climbed
out on the icy roof, with nothing on but his socks and a very short
shirt. He went climbing along on all fours on the roof toward the
chimney where the cats were. In the mean time these young ladies and
gentlemen were enjoying themselves down under the eaves, and when Jim got
almost to that chimney he made a pass at the cats, and his heels flew up
and he shot down and crashed through those vines, and lit in the midst of
the ladies and gentlemen, and sat down in those hot saucers of candy.
There was a stampede, of course, and he came up-stairs dropping pieces of
chinaware and candy all the way up, and when he got up there--now anybody
in the world would have gone into profanity or something calculated to
relieve the mind, but he didn't; he scraped the candy off his legs,
nursed his blisters a little, and said, "I could have ketched them cats
if I had had on a good ready."
[Does any reader know what a "ready" was in 1840? D.W.]
ADDRESS AT THE ACTORS' FUND FAIR, PHILADELPHIA, in 1895
LADIES AND GENTLEMEN,--The--er this--er--welcome occasion gives me an
--er--opportunity to make an--er--explanation that I have long desired to
deliver myself of. I rise to the highest honors before a Philadelphia
audience. In the course of my checkered career I have, on divers
occasions, been charged--er--maliciously with a more or less serious
offence. It is in reply to one of the more--er--important of these that
I wish to speak. More than once I have been accused of writing obituary
poetry in the Philadelphia Ledger.
I wish right here to deny that dreadful assertion. I will admit that
once, when a compositor in the Ledger establishment, I did set up some of
that poetry, but for a worse offence than that no indictment can be found
against me. I did not write that poetry--at least, not all of it.
CIGARS AND TOBACCO
My friends for some years now have remarked that I am an inveterate
consumer of tobacco. That is true, but my habits with regard to tobacco
have changed. I have no doubt that you will say, when I have explained
to you what my present purpose is, that my taste has deteriorated, but I
do not so regard it.
Whenever I held a smoking-party at my house, I found that my guests had
always just taken the pledge.
Let me tell you briefly the history of my personal relation to tobacco.
It began, I think, when I was a lad, and took the form of a quid, which I
became expert in tucking under my tongue. Afterward I learned the
delights of the pipe, and I suppose there was no other youngster of my
age who could more deftly cut plug tobacco so as to make it available for
Well, time ran on, and there came a time when I was able to gratify one
of my youthful ambitions--I could buy the choicest Havana cigars without
seriously interfering with my income. I smoked a good many, changing off
from the Havana cigars to the pipe in the course of a day's smoking.
At last it occurred to me that something was lacking in the Havana
cigar. It did not quite fulfil my youthful anticipations.
I experimented. I bought what was called a seed-leaf cigar with a
Connecticut wrapper. After a while I became satiated of these, and I
searched for something else, The Pittsburg stogy was recommended to me.
It certainly had the merit of cheapness, if that be a merit in tobacco,
and I experimented with the stogy.
Then, once more, I changed off, so that I might acquire the subtler
flavor of the Wheeling toby. Now that palled, and I looked around New
York in the hope of finding cigars which would seem to most people vile,
but which, I am sure, would be ambrosial to me. I couldn't find any.
They put into my hands some of those little things that cost ten cents a
box, but they are a delusion.
I said to a friend, "I want to know if you can direct me to an honest
tobacco merchant who will tell me what is the worst cigar in the New York
market, excepting those made for Chinese consumption--I want real
tobacco. If you will do this and I find the man is as good as his word,
I will guarantee him a regular market for a fair amount of his cigars."
We found a tobacco dealer who would tell the truth--who, if a cigar was
bad, would boldly say so. He produced what he called the very worst
cigars he had ever had in his shop. He let me experiment with one then
and there. The test was satisfactory.
This was, after all, the real thing. I negotiated for a box of them and
took them away with me, so that I might be sure of having them handy when
I want them.
I discovered that the "worst cigars," so called, are the best for me,
Mr. Clemens attended a billiard tourney on the evening of April
24, 1906, and was called on to tell a story.
The game of billiards has destroyed my naturally sweet disposition.
Once, when I was an underpaid reporter in Virginia City, whenever I
wished to play billiards I went out to look for an easy mark. One day a
stranger came to town and opened a billiard parlor. I looked him over
casually. When he proposed a game, I answered, "All right."
"Just knock the balls around a little so that I can get your gait," he
said; and when I had done so, he remarked: "I will be perfectly fair with
you. I'll play you left-handed." I felt hurt, for he was cross-eyed,
freckled, and had red hair, and I determined to teach him a lesson. He
won first shot, ran out, took my half-dollar, and all I got was the
opportunity to chalk my cue.
"If you can play like that with your left hand," I said, "I'd like to see
you play with your right."
"I can't," he said. "I'm left-handed."
THE UNION RIGHT OR WRONG
REMINISCENCES OF NEVADA
I can assure you, ladies and gentlemen, that Nevada had lively newspapers
in those days.
My great competitor among the reporters was Boggs, of the Union, an
Once in three or four months he would get a little intoxicated; but, as a
general thing, he was a wary and cautious drinker, although always ready
to damp himself a little with the enemy.
He had the advantage of me in one thing: he could get the monthly
public-school report and I could not, because the principal hated my sheet
One snowy night, when the report was due, I started out, sadly wondering
how I was to get it.
Presently, a few steps up the almost deserted street, I stumbled on
Boggs, and asked him where he was going.
"After the school report."
"I'll go along with you."
"No, Sir. I'll excuse you."
"Have it your own way."
A saloon-keeper's boy passed by with a steaming pitcher of hot punch, and
Boggs snuffed the fragrance gratefully.
He gazed fondly after the boy, and saw him start up the Enterprise
"I wish you could help me get that school business, but since you can't,
I must run up to the Union office and see if I can get a proof of it
after it's set up, though I don't begin to suppose I can. Good night."
"Hold on a minute. I don't mind getting the report and sitting around
with the boys a little while you copy it, if you're willing to drop down
to the principal's with me."
"Now you talk like a human being. Come along."
We ploughed a couple of blocks through the snow, got the report--a short
document--and soon copied it in our office.
Meantime, Boggs helped himself to the punch.
I gave the manuscript back to him, and we started back to get an inquest.
At four o'clock in the morning, when we had gone to press and were having
a relaxing concert as usual (for some of the printers were good singers
and others good performers on the guitar and on that atrocity the
accordion), the proprietor of the Union strode in and asked if anybody
had heard anything of Boggs or the school report.
We stated the case, and all turned out to help hunt for the delinquent.
We found him standing on a table in a saloon, with an old tin lantern in
one hand and the school report in the other, haranguing a gang of
"corned" miners on, the iniquity of squandering the public money on
education "when hundreds and hundreds of honest, hard-working men were
literally starving for whiskey."
He had been assisting in a regal spree with those parties for hours.
We dragged him away, and put him into bed.
Of course there was no school report in the Union, and Boggs held me
accountable, though I was innocent of any intention or desire to compass
its absence from that paper, and was as sorry as any one that the
misfortune had occurred. But we were perfectly friendly.
The day the next school report was due the proprietor of the Tennessee
Mine furnished us a buggy, and asked us to go down and write something
about the property--a very common request, and one always gladly acceded
to when people furnished buggies, for we were as fond of pleasure
excursions as other people.
The "mine" was a hole in the ground ninety feet deep, and no way of
getting down into it but by holding on to a rope and being lowered with a
The workmen had just gone off somewhere to dinner.
I was not strong enough to lower Boggs's bulk, so I took an unlighted
candle in my teeth, made a loop for my foot in the end of the rope,
implored Boggs not to go to sleep or let the windlass get the start of
him, and then swung out over the shaft.
I reached the bottom muddy and bruised about the elbows, but safe.
I lit the candle, made an examination of the rock, selected some
specimens, and shouted to Boggs to hoist away.
Presently a head appeared in the circle of daylight away aloft, and a
voice came down:
"Are you all set?"
"All set-hoist away!"
"Are you comfortable?"
"Could you wait a little?"
"Oh, certainly-no particular hurry."
"Why, where are you going?"
"After the school report!"
And he did.
I stayed down there an hour, and surprised the workmen when they hauled
up and found a man on the rope instead of a bucket of rock.
I walked home, too--five miles-up-hill.
We had no school report next morning--but the Union had.
AN IDEAL FRENCH ADDRESS
EXTRACT FROM "PARIS NOTES," IN "TOM SAWYER ABROAD," ETC.
I am told that a French sermon is like a French speech--it never names an
historical event, but only the date of it; if you are not up in dates,
you get left. A French speech is something like this:
"Comrades, citizens, brothers, noble parts of the only sublime and
perfect nation, let us not forget that the 21st January cast off our
chains; that the 10th August relieved us of the shameful presence of
foreign spies; that the 5th September was its own justification before
Heaven and humanity; that the 18th Brumaire contained the seeds of its
own punishment; that the 14th July was the mighty voice of liberty
proclaiming the resurrection, the new day, and inviting the oppressed
peoples of the earth to look upon the divine face of France and live;
and let us here record our everlasting curse against the man of the
2d December, and declare in thunder tones, the native tones of France,
that but for him there had been no 17th Mardi in history, no 12th
October, nor 9th January, no 22d April, no 16th November, no 30th
September, no 2d July, no 14th February, no 29th June, no 15th August, no
31st May--that but for him, France, the pure, the grand, the peerless,
had had a serene and vacant almanac to-day."
I have heard of one French sermon which closed in this odd yet eloquent
"My hearers, we have sad cause to remember the man of the 13th January.
The results of the vast crime of the 13th January have been in just
proportion to the magnitude of the act itself. But for it there had been
no 30th November--sorrowful spectacle! The grisly deed of the 16th June
had not been done but for it, nor had the man of the 16th June known
existence; to it alone the 3d September was due, also the fatal 12th
October. Shall we, then, be grateful for the 13th January, with its
freight of death for you and me and all that breathe? Yes, my friends,
for it gave us also that which had never come but for it, and it alone
--the blessed 25th December."
It may be well enough to explain. The man of the 13th January is Adam;
the crime of that date was the eating of the apple; the sorrowful
spectacle of the 30th November was the expulsion from Eden; the grisly
deed of the 16th June was the murder of Abel; the act of the 3d September
was the beginning of the journey to the land of Nod; the 12th day of
October, the last mountaintops disappeared under the flood. When you go
to church in France, you want to take your almanac with you--annotated.
EXTRACT FROM "THE HISTORY OF THE SAVAGE CLUB"
During that period of gloom when domestic bereavement had
forced Mr. Clemens and his dear ones to secure the privacy they
craved until their wounds should heal, his address was known to
only a very few of his closest friends. One old friend in New
York, after vain efforts to get his address, wrote him a letter
addressed as follows
God Knows Where,
The letter found him, and Mr. Clemens replied to the letter
expressing himself surprised and complimented that the person
who was credited with knowing his whereabouts should take so
much interest in him, adding: "Had the letter been addressed to
the care of the 'other party,' I would naturally have expected
to receive it without delay."
His correspondent tried again, and addressed the second letter:
The Devil Knows Where,
This found him also no less promptly.
On June 9, 1899, he consented to visit the Savage Club, London,
on condition that there was to be no publicity and no speech
was to be expected from him. The toastmaster, in proposing the
health of their guest, said that as a Scotchman, and therefore
as a born expert, he thought Mark Twain had little or no claim
to the title of humorist. Mr. Clemens had tried to be funny
but had failed, and his true role in life was statistics; that
he was a master of statistics, and loved them for their own
sake, and it would be the easiest task he ever undertook if he
would try to count all the real jokes he had ever made. While
the toastmaster was speaking, the members saw Mr. Clemens's
eyes begin to sparkle and his cheeks to flush. He jumped up,
and made a characteristic speech.
Perhaps I am not a humorist, but I am a first-class fool--a simpleton;
for up to this moment I have believed Chairman MacAlister to be a decent
person whom I could allow to mix up with my friends and relatives. The
exhibition he has just made of himself reveals him to be a scoundrel and
a knave of the deepest dye. I have been cruelly deceived, and it serves
me right for trusting a Scotchman. Yes, I do understand figures, and I
can count. I have counted the words in MacAlister's drivel (I certainly
cannot call it a speech), and there were exactly three thousand four
hundred and thirty-nine. I also carefully counted the lies--there were
exactly three thousand four hundred and thirty-nine. Therefore, I leave
MacAlister to his fate.
I was sorry to have my name mentioned as one of the great authors,
because they have a sad habit of dying off. Chaucer is dead, Spencer is
dead, so is Milton, so is Shakespeare, and I am not feeling very well
GALVESTON ORPHAN BAZAAR
ADDRESS AT A FAIR HELD AT THE WALDORF-ASTORIA, NEW YORK, IN
OCTOBER, 1900, IN AID OF THE ORPHANS AT GALVESTON
I expected that the Governor of Texas would occupy this place first and
would speak to you, and in the course of his remarks would drop a text
for me to talk from; but with the proverbial obstinacy that is proverbial
with governors, they go back on their duties, and he has not come here,
and has not furnished me with a text, and I am here without a text. I
have no text except what you furnish me with your handsome faces, and
--but I won't continue that, for I could go on forever about attractive
faces, beautiful dresses, and other things. But, after all, compliments
should be in order in a place like this.
I have been in New York two or three days, and have been in a condition
of strict diligence night and day, the object of this diligence being to
regulate the moral and political situation on this planet--put it on a
sound basis--and when you are regulating the conditions of a planet it
requires a great deal of talk in a great many kinds of ways, and when you
have talked a lot the emptier you get, and get also in a position of
corking. When I am situated like that, with nothing to say, I feel as
though I were a sort of fraud; I seem to be playing a part, and please
consider I am playing a part for want of something better, and this, is
not unfamiliar to me; I have often done this before.
When I was here about eight years ago I was coming up in a car of the
elevated road. Very few people were in that car, and on one end of it
there was no one, except on the opposite seat, where sat a man about
fifty years old, with a most winning face and an elegant eye--a beautiful
eye; and I took him from his dress to be a master mechanic, a man who had
a vocation. He had with him a very fine little child of about four or
five years. I was watching the affection which existed between those
two. I judged he was the grandfather, perhaps. It was really a pretty
child, and I was admiring her, and as soon as he saw I was admiring her
he began to notice me.
I could see his admiration of me in his eye, and I did what everybody
else would do--admired the child four times as much, knowing I would get
four times as much of his admiration. Things went on very pleasantly.
I was making my way into his heart.
By-and-by, when he almost reached the station where he was to get off,
he got up, crossed over, and he said: "Now I am going to say something to
you which I hope you will regard as a compliment." And then he went on
to say: "I have never seen Mark Twain, but I have seen a portrait of him,
and any friend of mine will tell you that when I have once seen a
portrait of a man I place it in my eye and store it away in my memory,
and I can tell you now that you look enough like Mark Twain to be his
brother. Now," he said, "I hope you take this as a compliment. Yes, you
are a very good imitation; but when I come to look closer, you are
probably not that man."
I said: "I will be frank with you. In my desire to look like that
excellent character I have dressed for the character; I have been playing
He said: "That is all right, that is all right; you look very well on the
outside, but when it comes to the inside you are not in it with the
So when I come to a place like this with nothing valuable to say I always
play a part. But I will say before I sit down that when it comes to
saying anything here I will express myself in this way: I am heartily in
sympathy with you in your efforts to help those who were sufferers in
this calamity, and in your desire to heap those who were rendered
homeless, and in saying this I wish to impress on you the fact that I am
not playing a part.
SAN FRANCISCO EARTHQUAKE
After the address at the Robert Fulton Fund meeting, June 19,
1906, Mr. Clemens talked to the assembled reporters about the
San Francisco earthquake.
I haven't been there since 1868, and that great city of San Francisco has
grown up since my day. When I was there she had one hundred and eighteen
thousand people, and of this number eighteen thousand were Chinese.
I was a reporter on the Virginia City Enterprise in Nevada in 1862, and
stayed there, I think, about two years, when I went to San Francisco and
got a job as a reporter on The Call. I was there three or four
I remember one day I was walking down Third Street in San Francisco. It
was a sleepy, dull Sunday afternoon, and no one was stirring. Suddenly
as I looked up the street about three hundred yards the whole side of a
house fell out. The street was full of bricks and mortar. At the same
time I was knocked against the side of a house, and stood there stunned
for a moment.
I thought it was an earthquake. Nobody else had heard anything about it
and no one said earthquake to me afterward, but I saw it and I wrote it.
Nobody else wrote it, and the house I saw go into the street was the only
house in the city that felt it. I've always wondered if it wasn't a
little performance gotten up for my especial entertainment by the nether
CHARITY AND ACTORS
ADDRESS AT THE ACTORS' FUND FAIR IN THE METROPOLITAN
OPERA HOUSE, NEW YORK, MAY 6, 1907
Mr. Clemens, in his white suit, formally declared the fair
open. Mr. Daniel Frohman, in introducing Mr. Clemens, said:
"We intend to make this a banner week in the history of the
Fund, which takes an interest in every one on the stage, be he
actor, singer, dancer, or workman. We have spent more than
$40,000 during the past year. Charity covers a multitude of
sins, but it also reveals a multitude of virtues. At the
opening of the former fair we had the assistance of Edwin Booth
and Joseph Jefferson. In their place we have to-day that
American institution and apostle of wide humanity--Mark Twain."
As Mr. Frohman has said, charity reveals a multitude of virtues. This is
true, and it is to be proved here before the week is over. Mr. Frohman
has told you something of the object and something of the character of
the work. He told me he would do this--and he has kept his word! I had
expected to hear of it through the newspapers. I wouldn't trust anything
between Frohman and the newspapers--except when it's a case of charity!
You should all remember that the actor has been your benefactor many and
many a year. When you have been weary and downcast he has lifted your
heart out of gloom and given you a fresh impulse. You are all under
obligation to him. This is your opportunity to be his benefactor--to
help provide for him in his old age and when he suffers from infirmities.
At this fair no one is to be persecuted to buy. If you offer a
twenty-dollar bill in payment for a purchase of $1 you will receive $19
in change. There is to be no robbery here. There is to be no creed here
--no religion except charity. We want to raise $250,000--and that is a
great task to attempt.
The President has set the fair in motion by pressing the button in
Washington. Now your good wishes are to be transmuted into cash.
By virtue of the authority in me vested I declare the fair open. I call
the ball game. Let the transmuting begin!
The American auxiliary movement to aid the cause of freedom in Russia was
launched on the evening of April 11, 1906, at the Club A house, 3 Fifth
Avenue, with Mr. Clemens and Maxim Gorky as the principal spokesmen.
Mr. Clemens made an introductory address, presenting Mr. Gorky.
If we can build a Russian republic to give to the persecuted people of
the Tsar's domain the same measure of freedom that we enjoy, let us go
ahead and do it. We need not discuss the methods by which that purpose
is to be attained. Let us hope that fighting will be postponed or
averted for a while, but if it must come--
I am most emphatically in sympathy with the movement, now on foot in
Russia, to make that country free. I am certain that it will be
successful, as it deserves to be. Any such movement should have and
deserves our earnest and unanimous co-operation, and such a petition for
funds as has been explained by Mr. Hunter, with its just and powerful
meaning, should have the utmost support of each and every one of us.
Anybody whose ancestors were in this country when we were trying to free
ourselves from oppression, must sympathize with those who now are trying
to do the same thing in Russia.
The parallel I have just drawn only goes to show that it makes no
difference whether the oppression is bitter or not; men with red, warm
blood in their veins will not endure it, but will seek to cast it off.
If we keep our hearts in this matter Russia will be free.
On December 18, 1905, an entertainment was given at the Casino
for the benefit of the Russian sufferers. After the
performance Mr. Clemens spoke.
LADIES AND GENTLEMEN,--It seems a sort of cruelty to inflict upon an
audience like this our rude English tongue, after we have heard that
divine speech flowing in that lucid Gallic tongue.
It has always been a marvel to me--that French language; it has always
been a puzzle to me. How beautiful that language is. How expressive it
seems to be. How full of grace it is.
And when it comes from lips like those, how eloquent and how liquid it
is. And, oh, I am always deceived--I always think I am going to
Oh, it is such a delight to me, such a delight to me, to meet Madame
Bernhardt, and laugh hand to hand and heart to heart with her.
I have seen her play, as we all have, and oh, that is divine; but I have
always wanted to know Madame Bernhardt herself--her fiery self. I have
wanted to know that beautiful character.
Why, she is the youngest person I ever saw, except myself--for I always
feel young when I come in the presence of young people.
I have a pleasant recollection of an incident so many years ago--when
Madame Bernhardt came to Hartford, where I lived, and she was going to
play and the tickets were three dollars, and there were two lovely women
--a widow and her daughter--neighbors of ours, highly cultivated ladies
they were; their tastes were fine and elevated, but they were very poor,
and they said "Well, we must not spend six dollars on a pleasure of the
mind, a pleasure of the intellect; we must spend it, if it must go at
all, to furnish to somebody bread to eat."
And so they sorrowed over the fact that they had to give up that great
pleasure of seeing Madame Bernhardt, but there were two neighbors equally
highly cultivated and who could not afford bread, and those good-hearted
Joneses sent that six dollars--deprived themselves of it--and sent it to
those poor Smiths to buy bread with. And those Smiths took it and bought
tickets with it to see Madame Bernhardt.
Oh yes, some people have tastes and intelligence also.
Now, I was going to make a speech--I supposed I was, but I am not. It is
late, late; and so I am going to tell a story; and there is this
advantage about a story, anyway, that whatever moral or valuable thing
you put into a speech, why, it gets diffused among those involuted
sentences and possibly your audience goes away without finding out what
that valuable thing was that you were trying to confer upon it; but, dear
me, you put the same jewel into a story and it becomes the keystone of
that story, and you are bound to get it--it flashes, it flames, it is the
jewel in the toad's head--you don't overlook that.
Now, if I am going to talk on such a subject as, for instance, the lost
opportunity--oh, the lost opportunity. Anybody in this house who has
reached the turn of life--sixty, or seventy, or even fifty, or along
there--when he goes back along his history, there he finds it mile-stoned
all the way with the lost opportunity, and you know how pathetic that is.
You younger ones cannot know the full pathos that lies in those words
--the lost opportunity; but anybody who is old, who has really lived and
felt this life, he knows the pathos of the lost opportunity.
Now, I will tell you a story whose moral is that, whose lesson is that,
whose lament is that.
I was in a village which is a suburb of New Bedford several years ago
--well, New Bedford is a suburb of Fair Haven, or perhaps it is the other
way; in any case, it took both of those towns to make a great centre of
the great whaling industry of the first half of the nineteenth century,
and I was up there at Fair Haven some years ago with a friend of mine.
There was a dedication of a great town-hall, a public building, and we
were there in the afternoon. This great building was filled, like this
great theatre, with rejoicing villagers, and my friend and I started down
the centre aisle. He saw a man standing in that aisle, and he said "Now,
look at that bronzed veteran--at that mahogany-faced man. Now, tell me,
do you see anything about that man's face that is emotional? Do you see
anything about it that suggests that inside that man anywhere there are
fires that can be started? Would you ever imagine that that is a human
"Why, no," I said, "I would not. He looks like a wooden Indian in front
of a cigar store."
"Very well," said my friend, "I will show you that there is emotion even
in that unpromising place. I will just go to that man and I will just
mention in the most casual way an incident in his life. That man is
getting along toward ninety years old. He is past eighty. I will
mention an incident of fifty or sixty years ago. Now, just watch the
effect, and it will be so casual that if you don't watch you won't know
when I do say that thing--but you just watch the effect."
He went on down there and accosted this antiquity, and made a remark or
two. I could not catch up. They were so casual I could not recognize
which one it was that touched that bottom, for in an instant that old man
was literally in eruption and was filling the whole place with profanity
of the most exquisite kind. You never heard such accomplished profanity.
I never heard it also delivered with such eloquence.
I never enjoyed profanity as I enjoyed it then--more than if I had been
uttering it myself. There is nothing like listening to an artist--all
his passions passing away in lava, smoke, thunder, lightning, and
Then this friend said to me: "Now, I will tell you about that. About
sixty years ago that man was a young fellow of twenty-three, and had just
come home from a three years' whaling voyage. He came into that village
of his, happy and proud because now, instead of being chief mate, he was
going to be master of a whaleship, and he was proud and happy about it.
"Then he found that there had been a kind of a cold frost come upon that
town and the whole region roundabout; for while he had been away the
Father Mathew temperance excitement had come upon the whole region.
Therefore, everybody had taken the pledge; there wasn't anybody for miles
and miles around that had not taken the pledge.
"So you can see what a solitude it was to this young man, who was fond of
his grog. And he was just an outcast, because when they found he would
not join Father Mathew's Society they ostracized him, and he went about
that town three weeks, day and night, in utter loneliness--the only human
being in the whole place who ever took grog, and he had to take it
"If you don't know what it is to be ostracized, to be shunned by your
fellow-man, may you never know it. Then he recognized that there was
something more valuable in this life than grog, and that is the
fellowship of your fellow-man. And at last he gave it up, and at nine
o'clock one night he went down to the Father Mathew Temperance Society,
and with a broken heart he said: 'Put my name down for membership in this
"And then he went away crying, and at earliest dawn the next morning they
came for him and routed him out, and they said that new ship of his was
ready to sail on a three years' voyage. In a minute he was on board that
ship and gone.
"And he said--well, he was not out of sight of that town till he began to
repent, but he had made up his mind that he would not take a drink, and
so that whole voyage of three years was a three years' agony to that man
because he saw all the time the mistake he had made.
"He felt it all through; he had constant reminders of it, because the
crew would pass him with their grog, come out on the deck and take it,
and there was the torturous Smell of it.
"He went through the whole, three years of suffering, and at last coming
into port it was snowy, it was cold, he was stamping through the snow two
feet deep on the deck and longing to get home, and there was his crew
torturing him to the last minute with hot grog, but at last he had his
reward. He really did get to shore at fast, and jumped and ran and
bought a jug and rushed to the society's office, and said to the
"'Take my name off your membership books, and do it right away! I have
got a three years' thirst on.'
"And the secretary said: 'It is not necessary. You were blackballed!'"
WATTERSON AND TWAIN AS REBELS
ADDRESS AT THE CELEBRATION OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN'S 92ND BIRTHDAY
ANNIVERSARY, CARNEGIE HALL, FEBRUARY 11, 1901, TO RAISE FUNDS
FOR THE LINCOLN MEMORIAL UNIVERSITY AT CUMBERLAND GAP, TENN.
LADIES AND GENTLEMEN,--The remainder of my duties as presiding chairman
here this evening are but two--only two. One of them is easy, and the
other difficult. That is to say, I must introduce the orator, and then
keep still and give him a chance. The name of Henry Watterson carries
with it its own explanation. It is like an electric light on top of
Madison Square Garden; you touch the button and the light flashes up out
of the darkness. You mention the name of Henry Watterson, and your minds
are at once illuminated with the splendid radiance of his fame and
achievements. A journalist, a soldier, an orator, a statesman, a rebel.
Yes, he was a rebel; and, better still, now he is a reconstructed rebel.
It is a curious circumstance, a circumstance brought about without any
collusion or prearrangement, that he and I, both of whom were rebels
related by blood to each other, should be brought here together this
evening bearing a tribute in our hands and bowing our heads in reverence
to that noble soul who for three years we tried to destroy. I don't know
as the fact has ever been mentioned before, but it is a fact,
nevertheless. Colonel Watterson and I were both rebels, and we are blood
relations. I was a second lieutenant in a Confederate company for a
while--oh, I could have stayed on if I had wanted to. I made myself
felt, I left tracks all around the country. I could have stayed on, but
it was such weather. I never saw such weather to be out-of-doors in, in
all my life.
The Colonel commanded a regiment, and did his part, I suppose, to destroy
the Union. He did not succeed, yet if he had obeyed me he would have
done so. I had a plan, and I fully intended to drive General Grant into
the Pacific Ocean--if I could get transportation. I told Colonel
Watterson about it. I told him what he had to do. What I wanted him to
do was to surround the Eastern army and wait until I came up. But he was
insubordinate; he stuck on some quibble of military etiquette about a
second lieutenant giving orders to a colonel or something like that. And
what was the consequence? The Union was preserved. This is the first
time I believe that that secret has ever been revealed.
No one outside of the family circle, I think, knew it before; but there
the facts are. Watterson saved the Union; yes, he saved the Union. And
yet there he sits, and not a step has been taken or a movement made
toward granting him a pension. That is the way things are done. It is a
case where some blushing ought to be done. You ought to blush, and I
ought to blush, and he--well, he's a little out of practice now.
ROBERT FULTON FUND
ADDRESS MADE ON THE EVENING OF APRIL 19, 1906
Mr. Clemens had been asked to address the association by Gen.
Frederick D. Grant, president. He was offered a fee of $1,000,
but refused it, saying:
"I shall be glad to do it, but I must stipulate that you keep
the $1,000, and add it to the Memorial Fund as my contribution
to erect a monument in New York to the memory of the man who
applied steam to navigation."
At this meeting Mr. Clemens made this formal announcement from
"This is my last appearance on the paid platform. I shall not
retire from the gratis platform until I am buried, and courtesy
will compel me to keep still and not disturb the others. Now,
since I must, I shall say good-bye. I see many faces in this
audience well known to me. They are all my friends, and I feel
that those I don't know are my friends, too. I wish to
consider that you represent the nation, and that in saying
good-bye to you I am saying good-bye to the nation. In the
great name of humanity, let me say this final word: I offer an
appeal in behalf of that vast, pathetic multitude of fathers,
mothers, and helpless little children. They were sheltered and
happy two days ago. Now they are wandering, forlorn, hopeless,
and homeless, the victims of a great disaster. So I beg of
you, I beg of you, to open your hearts and open your purses and
remember San Francisco, the smitten city."
I wish to deliver a historical address. I've been studying the history
of---er--a--let me see--a [then he stopped in confusion, and walked over
to Gen. Fred D. Grant, who sat at the head of the platform. He leaned
over an a whisper, and then returned to the front of the stage and
continued]. Oh yes! I've been studying Robert Fulton. I've been
studying a biographical sketch of Robert Fulton, the inventor of--er--a
--let's see--ah yes, the inventor of the electric telegraph and the Morse
sewing--machine. Also, I understand he invented the air--diria--pshaw!
I have it at last--the dirigible balloon. Yes, the dirigible--but it is
a difficult word, and I don't see why anybody should marry a couple of
words like that when they don't want to be married at all and are likely
to quarrel with each other all the time. I should put that couple of
words under the ban of the United States Supreme Court, under its
decision of a few days ago, and take 'em out and drown 'em.
I used to know Fulton. It used to do me good to see him dashing through
the town on a wild broncho.
And Fulton was born in---er--a--Well, it doesn't make much difference
where he was born, does it? I remember a man who came to interview me
once, to get a sketch of my life. I consulted with a friend--a practical
man--before he came, to know how I should treat him.
"Whenever you give the interviewer a fact," he said, "give him another
fact that will contradict it. Then he'll go away with a jumble that he
can't use at all. Be gentle, be sweet, smile like an idiot--just be
natural." That's what my friend told me to do, and I did it.
"Where were you born?" asked the interviewer.
"Well-er-a," I began, "I was born in Alabama, or Alaska, or the Sandwich
Islands; I don't know where, but right around there somewhere. And you
had better put it down before you forget it."
"But you weren't born in all those places," he said.
"Well, I've offered you three places. Take your choice. They're all at
the same price."
"How old are you?" he asked.
"I shall be nineteen in June," I said.
"Why, there's such a discrepancy between your age and your looks," he
"Oh, that's nothing," I said, "I was born discrepantly."
Then we got to talking about my brother Samuel, and he told me my
explanations were confusing.
"I suppose he is dead," I said. "Some said that he was dead and some
said that he wasn't."
"Did you bury him without knowing whether he was dead or not?" asked the
"There was a mystery," said I. "We were twins, and one day when we were
two weeks old--that is, he was one week old, and I was one week old--we
got mixed up in the bath-tub, and one of us drowned. We never could tell
which. One of us had a strawberry birthmark on the back of his hand.
There it is on my hand. This is the one that was drowned. There's no
doubt about it.
"Where's the mystery?" he said.
"Why, don't you see how stupid it was to bury the wrong twin?"
I answered. I didn't explain it any more because he said the explanation
confused him. To me it is perfectly plain.
But, to get back to Fulton. I'm going along like an old man I used to
know who used to start to tell a story about his grandfather. He had an
awfully retentive memory, and he never finished the story, because he
switched off into something else. He used to tell about how his
grandfather one day went into a pasture, where there was a ram. The old
man dropped a silver dime in the grass, and stooped over to pick it up.
The ram was observing him, and took the old man's action as an
Just as he was going to finish about the ram this friend of mine would
recall that his grandfather had a niece who had a glass eye. She used to
loan that glass eye to another lady friend, who used it when she received
company. The eye didn't fit the friend's face, and it was loose. And
whenever she winked it would turn aver.
Then he got on the subject of accidents, and he would tell a story about
how he believed accidents never happened.
"There was an Irishman coming down a ladder with a hod of bricks," he
said, "and a Dutchman was standing on the ground below. The Irishman
fell on the Dutchman and killed him. Accident? Never! If the Dutchman
hadn't been there the Irishman would have been killed. Why didn't the
Irishman fall on a dog which was next, to the Dutchman? Because the dog
would have seen him coming."
Then he'd get off from the Dutchman to an uncle named Reginald Wilson.
Reginald went into a carpet factory one day, and got twisted into the
machinery's belt. He went excursioning around the factory until he was
properly distributed and was woven into sixty-nine yards of the best
three-ply carpet. His wife bought the carpet, and then she erected a
monument to his memory. It read:
Sacred to the memory
sixty-nine yards of the best three-ply carpet
containing the mortal remainders of
Go thou and do likewise
And so an he would ramble about telling the story of his grandfather
until we never were told whether he found the ten-cent piece or whether
something else happened.
FULTON DAY, JAMESTOWN
ADDRESS DELIVERED SEPTEMBER 23, 1907
Lieutenant-Governor Ellyson, of Virginia, in introducing Mr.
"The people have come here to bring a tribute of affectionate
recollection for the man who has contributed so much to the
progress of the world and the happiness of mankind." As Mr.
Clemens came down to the platform the applause became louder
and louder, until Mr. Clemens held out his hand for silence.
It was a great triumph, and it was almost a minute after the
applause ceased before Mr. Clemens could speak. He attempted
it once, and when the audience noticed his emotion, it cheered
LADIES AND GENTLEMEN,--I am but human, and when you, give me a reception
like that I am obliged to wait a little while I get my voice. When you
appeal to my head, I don't feel it; but when you appeal to my heart, I do
We are here to celebrate one of the greatest events of American history,
and not only in American history, but in the world's history.
Indeed it was--the application of steam by Robert Fulton.
It was a world event--there are not many of them. It is peculiarly an
American event, that is true, but the influence was very broad in effect.
We should regard this day as a very great American holiday. We have not
many that are exclusively American holidays. We have the Fourth of July,
which we regard as an American holiday, but it is nothing of the kind.
I am waiting for a dissenting voice. All great efforts that led up to
the Fourth of July were made, not by Americans, but by English residents
of America, subjects of the King of England.
They fought all the fighting that was done, they shed and spilt all the
blood that was spilt, in securing to us the invaluable liberties which
are incorporated in the Declaration of Independence; but they were not
Americans. They signed the Declaration of Independence; no American's
name is signed to that document at all. There never was an American such
as you and I are until after the Revolution, when it had all been fought
out and liberty secured, after the adoption of the Constitution, and the
recognition of the Independence of America by all powers.
While we revere the Fourth of July--and let us always revere it, and the
liberties it conferred upon us--yet it was not an American event, a great
It was an American who applied that steam successfully. There are not a
great many world events, and we have our full share. The telegraph,
telephone, and the application of steam to navigation--these are great
To-day I have been requested, or I have requested myself, not to confine
myself to furnishing you with information, but to remind you of things,
and to introduce one of the nation's celebrants.
Admiral Harrington here is going to tell you all that I have left untold.
I am going to tell you all that I know, and then he will follow up with
such rags and remnants as he can find, and tell you what he knows.
No doubt you have heard a great deal about Robert Fulton and the
influences that have grown from his invention, but the little steamboat
is suffering neglect.
You probably do not know a great deal about that boat. It was the most
important steamboat in the world. I was there and saw it. Admiral
Harrington was there at the time. It need not surprise you, for he is
not as old as he looks. That little boat was interesting in every way.
The size of it. The boat was one [consults Admiral], he said ten feet
long. The breadth of that boat [consults Admiral], two hundred feet.
You see, the first and most important detail is the length, then the
breadth, and then the depth; the depth of that boat was [consults again]
--the Admiral says it was a flat boat. Then her tonnage--you know
nothing about a boat until you know two more things: her speed and her
tonnage. We know the speed she made. She made four miles---and
sometimes five miles. It was on her initial trip, on, August 11, 1807,
that she made her initial trip, when she went from [consults Admiral]
Jersey City--to Chicago. That's right. She went by way of Albany.
Now comes the tonnage of that boat. Tonnage of a boat means the amount
of displacement; displacement means the amount of water a vessel can
shove in a day. The tonnage of man is estimated by the amount of whiskey
he can displace in a day.
Robert Fulton named the 'Clermont' in honor of his bride, that is,
Clermont was the name of the county-seat.
I feel that it surprises you that I know so much. In my remarks of
welcome of Admiral Harrington I am not going to give him compliments.
Compliments always embarrass a man. You do not know anything to say.
It does not inspire you with words. There is nothing you can say in
answer to a compliment. I have been complimented myself a great many
times, and they always embarrass me--I always feel that they have not
The Admiral and myself have held public office, and were associated
together a great deal a friendly way in the time of Pocahontas. That
incident where Pocahontas saves the life of Smith from her father,
Powhatan's club, was gotten up by the Admiral and myself to advertise
At that time the Admiral and myself did not have the facilities of
advertising that you have.
I have known Admiral Harrington in all kinds of situations--in public
service, on the platform, and in the chain-gang now and then--but it was
a mistake. A case of mistaken identity. I do not think it is at all a
necessity to tell you Admiral Harrington's public history. You know that
it is in the histories. I am not here to tell you anything about his
public life, but to expose his private life.
I am something of a poet. When the great poet laureate, Tennyson, died,
and I found that the place was open, I tried to get it--but I did not get
it. Anybody can write the first line of a poem, but it is a very
difficult task to make the second line rhyme with the first. When I was
down in Australia there were two towns named Johnswood and Par-am. I
made this rhyme:
"The people of Johnswood are pious and good;
The people of Par-am they don't care a----."
I do not want to compliment Admiral Harrington, but as long as such men
as he devote their lives to the public service the credit of the country
will never cease. I will say that the same high qualities, the same
moral and intellectual attainments, the same graciousness of manner, of
conduct, of observation, and expression have caused Admiral Harrington to
be mistaken for me--and I have been mistaken for him.
A mutual compliment can go no further, and I now have the honor and
privilege of introducing to you Admiral Harrington.
LOTOS CLUB DINNER IN HONOR OF MARK TWAIN
ADDRESS AT THE FIRST FORMAL DINNER IN THE NEW CLUB-HOUSE,
NOVEMBER 11, 1893
In introducing the guest of the evening, Mr. Lawrence said:
"To-night the old faces appear once more amid new surroundings.
The place where last we met about the table has vanished, and
to-night we have our first Lotos dinner in a home that is all
our own. It is peculiarly fitting that the board should now be
spread in honor of one who has been a member of the club for
full a score of years, and it is a happy augury for the future
that our fellow-member whom we assemble to greet should be the
bearer of a most distinguished name in the world of letters;
for the Lotos Club is ever at its best when paying homage to
genius in literature or in art. Is there a civilized being who
has not heard the name of Mark Twain? We knew him long years
ago, before he came out of the boundless West, brimful of wit
and eloquence, with no reverence for anything, and went abroad
to educate the untutored European in the subtleties of the
American joke. The world has looked on and applauded while he
has broken many images. He has led us in imagination all over
the globe. With him as our guide we have traversed alike the
Mississippi and the Sea of Galilee. At his bidding we have
laughed at a thousand absurdities. By a laborious process of
reasoning he has convinced us that the Egyptian mummies are
actually dead. He has held us spellbound upon the plain at the
foot of the great Sphinx, and we have joined him in weeping
bitter tears at the tomb of Adam. To-night we greet him in the
flesh. What name is there in literature that can be likened to
his? Perhaps some of the distinguished gentlemen about this
table can tell us, but I know of none. Himself his only
MR. PRESIDENT, GENTLEMEN, AND MY FELLOW-MEMBERS OF THE LOTOS CLUB,--I
have seldom in my lifetime listened to compliments so felicitously
phrased or so well deserved. I return thanks for them from a full heart
and an appreciative spirit, and I will say this in self-defence: While I
am charged with having no reverence for anything, I wish to say that I
have reverence for the man who can utter such truths, and I also have a
deep reverence and a sincere one for a club that can do such justice to
me. To be the chief guest of such a club is something to be envied, and
if I read your countenances rightly I am envied. I am glad to see this
club in such palatial quarters. I remember it twenty years ago when it
was housed in a stable.
Now when I was studying for the ministry there were two or three things
that struck my attention particularly. At the first banquet mentioned in
history that other prodigal son who came back from his travels was
invited to stand up and have his say. They were all there, his brethren,
David and Goliath, and--er, and if he had had such experience as I have
had he would have waited until those other people got through talking.
He got up and testified to all his failings. Now if he had waited before
telling all about his riotous living until the others had spoken he might
not have given himself away as he did, and I think that I would give
myself away if I should go on. I think I'd better wait until the others
hand in their testimony; then if it is necessary for me to make an
explanation, I will get up and explain, and if I cannot do that, I'll
deny it happened.
Later in the evening Mr. Clemens made another speech, replying
to a fire of short speeches by Charles Dudley Warner, Charles
A. Dana, Seth Low, General Porter, and many others, each
welcoming the guest of honor.
I don't see that I have a great deal to explain. I got off very well,
considering the opportunities that these other fellows had. I don't see
that Mr. Low said anything against me, and neither did Mr. Dana.
However, I will say that I never heard so many lies told in one evening
as were told by Mr. McKelway--and I consider myself very capable; but
even in his case, when he got through, I was gratified by finding how
much he hadn't found out. By accident he missed the very things that I
didn't want to have said, and now, gentlemen, about Americanism.
I have been on the continent of Europe for two and a half years. I have
met many Americans there, some sojourning for a short time only, others
making protracted stays, and it has been very gratifying to me to find
that nearly all preserved their Americanism. I have found they all like
to see the Flag fly, and that their hearts rise when they see the Stars
and Stripes. I met only one lady who had forgotten the land of her birth
and glorified monarchical institutions.
I think it is a great thing to say that in two and a half years I met
only one person who had fallen a victim to the shams--I think we may call
them shams--of nobilities and of heredities. She was entirely lost in
them. After I had listened to her for a long time, I said to her: "At
least you must admit that we have one merit. We are not like the
Chinese, who refuse to allow their citizens who are tired of the country
to leave it. Thank God, we don't!"
With Mr. Howells, Edward Everett Hale, Thomas Nelson Page, and
a number of other authors, Mr. Clemens appeared before the
committee December 6, 1906. The new Copyright Bill
contemplated an author's copyright for the term of his life and
for fifty years thereafter, applying also for the benefit of
artists, musicians, and others, but the authors did most of the
talking. F. D. Millet made a speech for the artists, and John
Philip Sousa for the musicians.
Mr. Clemens was the last speaker of the day, and its chief
feature. He made a speech, the serious parts of which created
a strong impression, and the humorous parts set the Senators
and Representatives in roars of laughter.
I have read this bill. At least I have read such portions as I could
understand. Nobody but a practised legislator can read the bill and
thoroughly understand it, and I am not a practised legislator.
I am interested particularly and especially in the part of the bill which
concerns my trade. I like that extension of copyright life to the
author's life and fifty years afterward. I think that would satisfy any
reasonable author, because it would take care of his children. Let the
grandchildren take care of themselves. That would take care of my
daughters, and after that I am not particular. I shall then have long
been out of this struggle, independent of it, indifferent to it.
It isn't objectionable to me that all the trades and professions in the
United States are protected by the bill. I like that. They are all
important and worthy, and if we can take care of them under the Copyright
law I should like to see it done. I should like to see oyster culture
added, and anything else.
I am aware that copyright must have a limit, because that is required by
the Constitution of the United States, which sets aside the earlier
Constitution, which we call the decalogue. The decalogue says you shall
not take away from any man his profit. I don't like to be obliged to use
the harsh term. What the decalogue really says is, "Thou shaft not
steal," but I am trying to use more polite language.
The laws of England and America do take it away, do select but one class,
the people who create the literature of the land. They always talk
handsomely about the literature of the land, always what a fine, great,
monumental thing a great literature is, and in the midst of their
enthusiasm they turn around and do what they can to discourage it.
I know we must have a limit, but forty-two years is too much of a limit.
I am quite unable to guess why there should be a limit at all to the
possession of the product of a man's labor. There is no limit to real
Doctor Bale has suggested that a man might just as well, after
discovering a coal-mine and working it forty-two years, have the
Government step in and take it away.
What is the excuse? It is that the author who produced that book has had
the profit of it long enough, and therefore the Government takes a profit
which does not belong to it and generously gives it to the 88,000,000 of
people. But it doesn't do anything of the kind. It merely takes the
author's property, takes his children's bread, and gives the publisher
double profit. He goes on publishing the book and as many of his
confederates as choose to go into the conspiracy do so, and they rear
families in affluence.
And they continue the enjoyment of those ill-gotten gains generation
after generation forever, for they never die. In a few weeks or months
or years I shall be out of it, I hope under a monument. I hope I shall
not be entirely forgotten, and I shall subscribe to the monument myself.
But I shall not be caring what happens if there are fifty years left of
my copyright. My copyright produces annually a good deal more than I can
use, but my children can use it. I can get along; I know a lot of
trades. But that goes to my daughters, who can't get along as well as I
can because I have carefully raised them as young ladies, who don't know
anything and can't do anything. I hope Congress will extend to them the
charity which they have failed to get from me.
Why, if a man who is not even mad, but only strenuous--strenuous about
race-suicide--should come to me and try to get me to use my large
political and ecclesiastical influence to get a bill passed by this
Congress limiting families to twenty-two children by one mother, I should
try to calm him down. I should reason with him. I should say to him,
"Leave it alone. Leave it alone and it will take care of itself. Only
one couple a year in the United States can reach that limit. If they
have reached that limit let them go right on. Let them have all the
liberty they want. In restricting that family to twenty-two children you
are merely conferring discomfort and unhappiness on one family per year
in a nation of 88,000,000, which is not worth while."
It is the very same with copyright. One author per year produces a book
which can outlive the forty-two-year limit; that's all. This nation
can't produce two authors a year that can do it; the thing is
demonstrably impossible. All that the limited copyright can do is to
take the bread out of the mouths of the children of that one author per
I made an estimate some years ago, when I appeared before a committee of
the House of Lords, that we had published in this country since the
Declaration of Independence 220,000 books. They have all gone. They had
all perished before they were ten years old. It is only one book in 1000
that can outlive the forty-two year limit. Therefore why put a limit at
all? You might as well limit the family to twenty-two children.
If you recall the Americans in the nineteenth century who wrote books
that lived forty-two years you will have to begin with Cooper; you can
follow with Washington Irving, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Edgar Allan Poe,
and there you have to wait a long time. You come to Emerson, and you
have to stand still and look further. You find Howells and T. B.
Aldrich, and then your numbers begin to run pretty thin, and you question
if you can name twenty persons in the United States who--in a whole
century have written books that would live forty-two years. Why, you
could take them all and put them on one bench there [pointing]. Add the
wives and children and you could put the result on, two or three more
One hundred persons--that is the little, insignificant crowd whose
bread-and-butter is to be taken away for what purpose, for what profit to
anybody? You turn these few books into the hands of the pirate and of
the legitimate publisher, too, and they get the profit that should have
gone to the wife and children.
When I appeared before that committee of the House of Lords the chairman
asked me what limit I would propose. I said, "Perpetuity." I could see
some resentment in his manner, and he said the idea was illogical, for
the reason that it has long ago been decided that there can be no such
thing as property in ideas. I said there was property in ideas before
Queen Anne's time; they had perpetual copyright. He said, "What is a
book? A book is just built from base to roof on ideas, and there can be
no property in it."
I said I wished he could mention any kind of property on this planet that
had a pecuniary value which was not derived from an idea or ideas.
He said real estate. I put a supposititious case, a dozen Englishmen who
travel through South Africa and camp out, and eleven of them see
nothing at all; they are mentally blind. But there is one in the party
who knows what this harbor means and what the lay of the land means. To
him it means that some day a railway will go through here, and there on
that harbor a great city will spring up. That is his idea. And he has
another idea, which is to go and trade his last bottle of Scotch whiskey
and his last horse-blanket to the principal chief of that region and
buy a piece of land the size of Pennsylvania.
That was the value of an idea that the day would come when the Cape to
Cairo Railway would be built.
Every improvement that is put upon the real estate is the result of an
idea in somebody's head. The skyscraper is another idea; the railroad is
another; the telephone and all those things are merely symbols which
represent ideas. An andiron, a wash-tub, is the result of an idea that
did not exist before.
So if, as that gentleman said, a book does consist solely of ideas, that
is the best argument in the world that it is property, and should not be
under any limitation at all. We don't ask for that. Fifty years from
now we shall ask for it.
I hope the bill will pass without any deleterious amendments. I do seem
to be extraordinarily interested in a whole lot of arts and things that I
have got nothing to do with. It is a part of my generous, liberal
nature; I can't help it. I feel the same sort of charity to everybody
that was manifested by a gentleman who arrived at home at two o'clock in
the morning from the club and was feeling so perfectly satisfied with
life, so happy, and so comfortable, and there was his house weaving,
weaving, weaving around. He watched his chance, and by and by when the
steps got in his neighborhood he made a jump and climbed up and got on
And the house went on weaving and weaving and weaving, but he watched the
door, and when it came around his way he plunged through it. He got to
the stairs, and when he went up on all fours the house was so unsteady
that he could hardly make his way, but at last he got to the top and
raised his foot and put it on the top step. But only the toe hitched on
the step, and he rolled down and fetched up on the bottom step, with his
arm around the newel-post, and he said:
"God pity the poor sailors out at sea on a night like this."
IN AID OF THE BLIND
ADDRESS AT A PUBLIC MEETING OF THE NEW YORK ASSOCIATION FOR
PROMOTING THE INTERESTS OF THE BLIND AT THE WALDORF ASTORIA,
MARCH 29, 1906
If you detect any awkwardness in my movements and infelicities in my
conduct I will offer the explanation that I never presided at a meeting
of any kind before in my life, and that I do find it out of my line.
I supposed I could do anything anybody else could, but I recognize that
experience helps, and I do feel the lack of that experience. I don't
feel as graceful and easy as I ought to be in order to impress an
audience. I shall not pretend that I know how to umpire a meeting like
this, and I shall just take the humble place of the Essex band.
There was a great gathering in a small New England town, about
twenty-five years ago. I remember that circumstance because there was
something that happened at that time. It was a great occasion. They
gathered in the militia and orators and everybody from all the towns
around. It was an extraordinary occasion.
The little local paper threw itself into ecstasies of admiration and
tried to do itself proud from beginning to end. It praised the orators,
the militia, and all the bands that came from everywhere, and all this in
honest country newspaper detail, but the writer ran out of adjectives
toward the end. Having exhausted his whole magazine of praise and
glorification, he found he still had one band left over. He had to say
something about it, and he said: "The Essex band done the best it could."
I am an Essex band on this occasion, and I am going to get through as
well as inexperience and good intentions will enable me. I have got all
the documents here necessary to instruct you in the objects and
intentions of this meeting and also of the association which has called
the meeting. But they are too voluminous. I could not pack those
statistics into my head, and I had to give it up. I shall have to just
reduce all that mass of statistics to a few salient facts. There are too
many statistics and figures for me. I never could do anything with
figures, never had any talent for mathematics, never accomplished
anything in my efforts at that rugged study, and to-day the only
mathematics I know is multiplication, and the minute I get away up in
that, as soon as I reach nine times seven--
[Mr. Clemens lapsed into deep thought for a moment. He was trying to
figure out nine times seven, but it was a hopeless task, and he turned to
St. Clair McKelway, who sat near him. Mr. McKelway whispered the answer,
and the speaker resumed:]
I've got it now. It's eighty-four. Well, I can get that far all right
with a little hesitation. After that I am uncertain, and I can't manage
"This association for the--"
[Mr. Clemens was in another dilemma. Again he was obliged to turn to Mr.
Oh yes, for promoting the interests of the blind. It's a long name. If
I could I would write it out for you and let you take it home and study
it, but I don't know how to spell it. And Mr. Carnegie is down in
Virginia somewhere. Well, anyway, the object of that association which
has been recently organized, five months ago, in fact, is in the hands of
very, very energetic, intelligent, and capable people, and they will push
it to success very surely, and all the more surely if you will give them
a little of your assistance out of your pockets.
The intention, the purpose, is to search out all the blind and find work
for them to do so that they may earn, their own bread. Now it is dismal
enough to be blind--it is dreary, dreary life at best, but it can be
largely ameliorated by finding something for these poor blind people to
do with their hands. The time passes so heavily that it is never day or
night with them, it is always night, and when they have to sit with
folded hands and with nothing to do to amuse or entertain or employ their
minds, it is drearier and drearier.
And then the knowledge they have that they must subsist on charity, and
so often reluctant charity, it would renew their lives if they could have
something to do with their hands and pass their time and at the same time
earn their bread, and know the sweetness of the bread which is the result
of the labor of one's own hands. They need that cheer and pleasure. It
is the only way you can turn their night into day, to give them happy
hearts, the only thing you can put in the place of the blessed sun. That
you can do in the way I speak of.
Blind people generally who have seen the light know what it is to miss
the light. Those who have gone blind since they were twenty years old
--their lives are unendingly dreary. But they can be taught to use
their hands and to employ themselves at a great many industries. That
association from which this draws its birth in Cambridge, Massachusetts,
has taught its blind to make many things. They make them better than
most people, and more honest than people who have the use of their eyes.
The goods they make are readily salable. People like them. And so they
are supporting themselves, and it is a matter of cheer, cheer. They pass
their time now not too irksomely as they formerly did.
What this association needs and wants is $15,000. The figures are set
down, and what the money is for, and there is no graft in it or I would
not be here. And they hope to beguile that out of your pockets, and you
will find affixed to the programme an opportunity, that little blank
which you will fill out and promise so much money now or to-morrow or
some time. Then, there is another opportunity which is still better, and
that is that you shall subscribe an annual sum.
I have invented a good many useful things in my time, but never anything
better than that of getting money out of people who don't want to part
with it. It is always for good objects, of course. This is the plan:
When you call upon a person to contribute to a great and good object, and
you think he should furnish about $1,000, he disappoints you as like as
not. Much the best way to work him to supply that thousand dollars is to
split it into parts and contribute, say a hundred dollars a year, or
fifty, or whatever the sum maybe. Let him contribute ten or twenty a
year. He doesn't feel that, but he does feel it when you call upon him
to contribute a large amount. When you get used to it you would rather
contribute than borrow money.
I tried it in Helen Keller's case. Mr. Hutton wrote me in 1896 or 1897
when I was in London and said: "The gentleman who has been so liberal in
taking care of Helen Keller has died without making provision for her in
his will, and now they don't know what to do." They were proposing to
raise a fund, and he thought $50,000 enough to furnish an income of $2400
or $2500 a year for the support of that wonderful girl and her wonderful
teacher, Miss Sullivan, now Mrs. Macy. I wrote to Mr. Hutton and said:
"Go on, get up your fund. It will be slow, but if you want quick work,
I propose this system," the system I speak of, of asking people to
contribute such and such a sum from year to year and drop out whenever
they please, and he would find there wouldn't be any difficulty, people
wouldn't feel the burden of it. And he wrote back saying he had raised
the $2400 a year indefinitely by that system in, a single afternoon. We
would like to do something just like that to-night. We will take as many
checks as you care to give. You can leave your donations in the big room
I knew once what it was to be blind. I shall never forget that
experience. I have been as blind as anybody ever was for three or four
hours, and the sufferings that I endured and the mishaps and the
accidents that are burning in my memory make my sympathy rise when I feel
for the blind and always shall feel. I once went to Heidelberg on an
excursion. I took a clergyman along with me, the Rev. Joseph Twichell,
of Hartford, who is still among the living despite that fact. I always
travel with clergymen when I can. It is better for them, it is better
for me. And any preacher who goes out with me in stormy weather and
without a lightning rod is a good one. The Reverend Twichell is one of
those people filled with patience and endurance, two good ingredients for
a man travelling with me, so we got along very well together. In that
old town they have not altered a house nor built one in 1500 years. We
went to the inn and they placed Twichell and me in a most colossal
bedroom, the largest I ever saw or heard of. It was as big as this room.
I didn't take much notice of the place. I didn't really get my bearings.
I noticed Twichell got a German bed about two feet wide, the kind in
which you've got to lie on your edge, because there isn't room to lie on
your back, and he was way down south in that big room, and I was way up
north at the other end of it, with a regular Sahara in between.
We went to bed. Twichell went to sleep, but then he had his conscience
loaded and it was easy for him to get to sleep. I couldn't get to sleep.
It was one of those torturing kinds of lovely summer nights when you hear
various kinds of noises now and then. A mouse away off in the southwest.
You throw things at the mouse. That encourages the mouse. But I
couldn't stand it, and about two o'clock I got up and thought I would
give it up and go out in the square where there was one of those tinkling
fountains, and sit on its brink and dream, full of romance.
I got out of bed, and I ought to have lit a candle, but I didn't think of
it until it was too late. It was the darkest place that ever was. There
has never been darkness any thicker than that. It just lay in cakes.
I thought that before dressing I would accumulate my clothes. I pawed
around in the dark and found everything packed together on the floor
except one sock. I couldn't get on the track of that sock. It might
have occurred to me that maybe it was in the wash. But I didn't think of
that. I went excursioning on my hands and knees. Presently I thought,
"I am never going to find it; I'll go back to bed again." That is what I
tried to do during the next three hours. I had lost the bearings of that
bed. I was going in the wrong direction all the time. By-and-by I came
in collision with a chair and that encouraged me.
It seemed to me, as far as I could recollect, there was only a chair here
and there and yonder, five or six of them scattered over this territory,
and I thought maybe after I found that chair I might find the next one.
Well, I did. And I found another and another and another. I kept going
around on my hands and knees, having those sudden collisions, and finally
when I banged into another chair I almost lost my temper. And I raised
up, garbed as I was, not for public exhibition, right in front of a
mirror fifteen or sixteen feet high.
I hadn't noticed the mirror; didn't know it was there. And when I saw
myself in the mirror I was frightened out of my wits. I don't allow any
ghosts to bite me, and I took up a chair and smashed at it. A million
pieces. Then I reflected. That's the way I always do, and it's
unprofitable unless a man has had much experience that way and has clear
judgment. And I had judgment, and I would have had to pay for that
mirror if I hadn't recollected to say it was Twichell who broke it.
Then I got down, on my hands and knees and went on another exploring
As far as I could remember there were six chairs in that Oklahoma, and
one table, a great big heavy table, not a good table to hit with your
head when rushing madly along. In the course of time I collided with
thirty-five chairs and tables enough to stock that dining-room out there.
It was a hospital for decayed furniture, and it was in a worse condition
when I got through with it. I went on and on, and at last got to a place
where I could feel my way up, and there was a shelf. I knew that wasn't
in the middle of the room. Up to that time I was afraid I had gotten out
of the city.
I was very careful and pawed along that shelf, and there was a pitcher of
water about a foot high, and it was at the head of Twichell's bed, but I
didn't know it. I felt that pitcher going and I grabbed at it, but it
didn't help any and came right down in Twichell's face and nearly drowned
him. But it woke him up. I was grateful to have company on any terms.
He lit a match, and there I was, way down south when I ought to have been
back up yonder. My bed was out of sight it was so far away. You needed
a telescope to find it. Twichell comforted me and I scrubbed him off and
we got sociable.
But that night wasn't wasted. I had my pedometer on my leg. Twichell
and I were in a pedometer match. Twichell had longer legs than I. The
only way I could keep up was to wear my pedometer to bed. I always walk
in my sleep, and on this occasion I gained sixteen miles on him. After
all, I never found that sock. I never have seen it from that day to
this. But that adventure taught me what it is to be blind. That was one
of the most serious occasions of my whole life, yet I never can speak of
it without somebody thinking it isn't serious. You try it and see how
serious it is to be as the blind are and I was that night.
[Mr. Clemens read several letters of regret. He then introduced Joseph
H. Choate, saying:]
It is now my privilege to present to you Mr. Choate. I don't have to
really introduce him. I don't have to praise him, or to flatter him.
I could say truly that in the forty-seven years I have been familiarly
acquainted with him he has always been the handsomest man America has
ever produced. And I hope and believe he will hold the belt forty-five
years more. He has served his country ably, faithfully, and brilliantly.
He stands at the summit, at the very top in the esteem and regard of his
countrymen, and if I could say one word which would lift him any higher
in his countrymen's esteem and affection, I would say that word whether
it was true or not.
DR. MARK TWAIN, FARMEOPATH
ADDRESS AT THE ANNUAL DINNER OF THE NEW YORK POST-GRADUATE
MEDICAL SCHOOL AND HOSPITAL, JANUARY 21, 1909
The president, Dr. George N. Miller, in introducing Mr.
Clemens, referred to his late experience with burglars.
GENTLEMEN AND DOCTORS,--I am glad to be among my own kind to-night.
I was once a sharpshooter, but now I practise a much higher and equally
as deadly a profession. It wasn't so very long ago that I became a
member of your cult, and for the time I've been in the business my record
is one that can't be scoffed at.
As to the burglars, I am perfectly familiar with these people. I have
always had a good deal to do with burglars--not officially, but through
their attentions to me. I never suffered anything at the hands of a
burglar. They have invaded my house time and time again. They never got
anything. Then those people who burglarized our house in September--we
got back the plated ware they took off, we jailed them, and I have been
sorry ever since. They did us a great service they scared off all the
servants in the place.
I consider the Children's Theatre, of which I am president, and the
Post-Graduate Medical School as the two greatest institutions in the
country. This school, in bringing its twenty thousand physicians from all
parts of the country, bringing them up to date, and sending them back
with renewed confidence, has surely saved hundreds of thousands of lives
which otherwise would have been lost.
I have been practising now for seven months. When I settled on my farm
in Connecticut in June I found the Community very thinly settled--and
since I have been engaged in practice it has become more thinly settled
still. This gratifies me, as indicating that I am making an impression
on my community. I suppose it is the same with all of you.
I have always felt that I ought to do something for you, and so I
organized a Redding (Connecticut) branch of the Post-Graduate School.
I am only a country farmer up there, but I am doing the best I can.
Of course, the practice of medicine and surgery in a remote country
district has its disadvantages, but in my case I am happy in a division
of responsibility. I practise in conjunction with a horse-doctor, a
sexton, and an undertaker. The combination is air-tight, and once a man
is stricken in our district escape is impossible for him.
These four of us--three in the regular profession and the fourth an
undertaker--are all good men. There is Bill Ferguson, the Redding
undertaker. Bill is there in every respect. He is a little lukewarm on
general practice, and writes his name with a rubber stamp. Like my old
Southern, friend, he is one of the finest planters anywhere.
Then there is Jim Ruggles, the horse-doctor. Ruggles is one of the best
men I have got. He also is not much on general medicine, but he is a
fine horse-doctor. Ferguson doesn't make any money off him.
You see, the combination started this way. When I got up to Redding and
had become a doctor, I looked around to see what my chances were for
aiding in, the great work. The first thing I did was to determine what
manner of doctor I was to be. Being a Connecticut farmer, I naturally
consulted my farmacopia, and at once decided to become a farmeopath.
Then I got circulating about, and got in touch with Ferguson and
Ruggles. Ferguson joined readily in my ideas, but Ruggles kept saying
that, while it was all right for an undertaker to get aboard, he couldn't
see where it helped horses.
Well, we started to find out what was the trouble with the community, and
it didn't take long to find out that there was just one disease, and that
was race-suicide. And driving about the country-side I was told by my
fellow-farmers that it was the only rational human and valuable disease.
But it is cutting into our profits so that we'll either have to stop it
or we'll have to move.
We've had some funny experiences up there in Redding. Not long ago a
fellow came along with a rolling gait and a distressed face. We asked
him what was the matter. We always hold consultations on every case, as
there isn't business enough for four. He said he didn't know, but that
he was a sailor, and perhaps that might help us to give a diagnosis. We
treated him for that, and I never saw a man die more peacefully.
That same afternoon my dog Tige treed an African gentleman. We chained
up the dog, and then the gentleman came down and said he had
appendicitis. We asked him if he wanted to be cut open, and he said yes,
that he'd like to know if there was anything in it. So we cut him open
and found nothing in him but darkness. So we diagnosed his case as
infidelity, because he was dark inside. Tige is a very clever dog, and
aids us greatly.
The other day a patient came to me and inquired if I was old Doctor
As a practitioner I have given a great deal of my attention to Bright's
disease. I have made some rules for treating it that may be valuable.
Rule 1. When approaching the bedside of one whom an all-wise President
--I mean an all-wise Providence--well, anyway, it's the same thing--has
seen fit to afflict with disease--well, the rule is simple, even if it is
Rule 2. I've forgotten just what it is, but--
Rule 3. This is always indispensable: Bleed your patient.
MISSOURI UNIVERSITY SPEECH
ADDRESS DELIVERED JUNE 4, 1902, AT COLUMBIA, MO.
When the name of Samuel L. Clemens was called the humorist
stepped forward, put his hand to his hair, and apparently
hesitated. There was a dead silence for a moment. Suddenly
the entire audience rose and stood in silence. Some one began
to spell out the word Missouri with an interval between the
letters. All joined in. Then the house again became silent.
Mr. Clemens broke the spell:
As you are all standing [he drawled in his characteristic voice], I
guess, I suppose I had better stand too.
[Then came a laugh and loud cries for a speech. As the great humorist
spoke of his recent visit to Hannibal, his old home, his voice trembled.]
You cannot know what a strain it was on my emotions [he said]. In fact,
when I found myself shaking hands with persons I had not seen for fifty
years and looking into wrinkled faces that were so young and joyous when
I last saw them, I experienced emotions that I had never expected, and
did not know were in me. I was profoundly moved anal saddened to think
that this was the last time, perhaps, that I would ever behold those kind
old faces and dear old scenes of childhood.
[The humorist then changed to a lighter mood, and for a time the audience
was in a continual roar of laughter. He was particularly amused at the
eulogy on himself read by Gardiner Lathrop in conferring the degree.] He
has a fine opportunity to distinguish himself [said Mr. Clemens] by
telling the truth about me.
I have seen it stated in print that as a boy I had been guilty of
stealing peaches, apples, and watermelons. I read a story to this effect
very closely not long ago, and I was convinced of one thing, which was
that the man who wrote it was of the opinion that it was wrong to steal,
and that I had not acted right in doing so. I wish now, however, to make
an honest statement, which is that I do not believe, in all my checkered
career, I stole a ton of peaches.
One night I stole--I mean I removed--a watermelon from a wagon while the
owner was attending to another customer. I crawled off to a secluded
spot, where I found that it was green. It was the greenest melon in the
Mississippi Valley. Then I began to reflect. I began to be sorry. I
wondered what George Washington would have done had he been in my place.
I thought a long time, and then suddenly felt that strange feeling which
comes to a man with a good resolution, and I took up that watermelon and
took it back to its owner. I handed him the watermelon and told him to
reform. He took my lecture much to heart, and, when he gave me a good
one in place of the green melon, I forgave him.
I told him that I would still be a customer of his, and that I cherished
no ill-feeling because of the incident--that would remain green in my
The alumni of Eastman College gave their annual banquet,
March 30, 1901, at the Y. M. C. A. Building. Mr. James G.
Cannon, of the Fourth National Bank, made the first speech of
the evening, after which Mr. Clemens was introduced by Mr.
Bailey as the personal friend of Tom Sawyer, who was one of the
types of successful business men.
MR. CANNON has furnished me with texts enough to last as slow a speaker
as myself all the rest of the night. I took exception to the introducing
of Mr. Cannon as a great financier, as if he were the only great
financier present. I am a financier. But my methods are not the same as
I cannot say that I have turned out the great business man that I thought
I was when I began life. But I am comparatively young yet, and may
learn. I am rather inclined to believe that what troubled me was that I
got the big-head early in the game. I want to explain to you a few
points of difference between the principles of business as I see them and
those that Mr. Cannon believes in.
He says that the primary rule of business success is loyalty to your
employer. That's all right--as a theory. What is the matter with
loyalty to yourself? As nearly as I can understand Mr. Cannon's
methods, there is one great drawback to them. He wants you to work a
great deal. Diligence is a good thing, but taking things easy is much
more-restful. My idea is that the employer should be the busy man, and
the employee the idle one. The employer should be the worried man, and
the employee the happy one. And why not? He gets the salary. My plan
is to get another man to do the work for me. In that there's more
repose. What I want is repose first, last, and all the time.
Mr. Cannon says that there are three cardinal rules of business success;
they are diligence, honesty, and truthfulness. Well, diligence is all
right. Let it go as a theory. Honesty is the best policy--when there is
money in it. But truthfulness is one of the most dangerous--why, this
man is misleading you.
I had an experience to-day with my wife which illustrates this. I was
acknowledging a belated invitation to another dinner for this evening,
which seemed to have been sent about ten days ago. It only reached me
this morning. I was mortified at the discourtesy into which I had been
brought by this delay, and wondered what was being thought of me by my
hosts. As I had accepted your invitation, of course I had to send
regrets to my other friends.
When I started to write this note my wife came up and stood looking over
my shoulder. Women always want to know what is going on. Said she
"Should not that read in the third person?" I conceded that it should,
put aside what I was writing, and commenced over again. That seemed to
satisfy her, and so she sat down and let me proceed. I then--finished my
first note--and so sent what I intended. I never could have done this if
I had let my wife know the truth about it. Here is what I wrote:
TO THE OHIO SOCIETY,--I have at this moment received a most kind
invitation (eleven days old) from Mr. Southard, president; and a
like one (ten days old) from Mr. Bryant, president of the Press
Club. I thank the society cordially for the compliment of these
invitations, although I am booked elsewhere and cannot come.
But, oh, I should like to know the name of the Lightning Express by
which they were forwarded; for I owe a friend a dozen chickens, and
I believe it will be cheaper to send eggs instead, and let them
develop on the road.
I want to tell you of some of my experiences in business, and then I will
be in a position to lay down one general rule for the guidance of those
who want to succeed in business. My first effort was about twenty-five
years ago. I took hold of an invention--I don't know now what it was all
about, but some one came to me tend told me it was a good thing, and that
there was lots of money in it. He persuaded me to invest $15,000, and I
lived up to my beliefs by engaging a man to develop it. To make a long
story short, I sunk $40,000 in it.
Then I took up the publication of a book. I called in a publisher and
said to him: "I want you to publish this book along lines which I shall
lay down. I am the employer, and you are the employee. I am going to
show them some new kinks in the publishing business. And I want you to
draw on me for money as you go along," which he did. He drew on me for
$56,000. Then I asked him to take the book and call it off. But he
refused to do that.
My next venture was with a machine for doing something or other. I knew
less about that than I did about the invention. But I sunk $170,000 in
the business, and I can't for the life of me recollect what it was the
machine was to do.
I was still undismayed. You see, one of the strong points about my
business life was that I never gave up. I undertook to publish General
Grant's book, and made $140,000 in six months. My axiom is, to succeed
in business: avoid my example.
CARNEGIE THE BENEFACTOR
At the dinner given in honor of Andrew Carnegie by the Lotos
Club, March 17, 1909, Mr. Clemens appeared in a white suit from
head to feet. He wore a white double-breasted coat, white
trousers, and white shoes. The only relief was a big black
cigar, which he confidentially informed the company was not
from his usual stack bought at $3 per barrel.
The State of Missouri has for its coat of arms a barrel-head with two
Missourians, one on each side of it, and mark the motto--"United We
Stand, Divided We Fall." Mr. Carnegie, this evening, has suffered from
compliments. It is interesting to hear what people will say about a man.
Why, at the banquet given by this club in my honor, Mr. Carnegie had the
inspiration for which the club is now honoring him. If Dunfermline
contributed so much to the United States in contributing Mr. Carnegie,
what would have happened if all Scotland had turned out? These
Dunfermline folk have acquired advantages in coming to America.
Doctor McKelway paid the top compliment, the cumulation, when he said of
"There is a man who wants to pay more taxes than he is charged." Richard
Watson Gilder did very well for a poet. He advertised his magazine. He
spoke of hiring Mr. Carnegie--the next thing he will be trying to hire
If I undertook--to pay compliments I would do it stronger than any others
have done it, for what Mr. Carnegie wants are strong compliments. Now,
the other side of seventy, I have preserved, as my chiefest virtue,
ON POETRY, VERACITY, AND SUICIDE
ADDRESS AT A DINNER OF THE MANHATTAN DICKENS FELLOWSHIP,
NEW YORK CITY, FEBRUARY 7, 1906
This dinner was in commemoration of the ninety-fourth
anniversary of the birth of Charles Dickens. On an other
occasion Mr. Clemens told the same story with variations and a
different conclusion to the University Settlement Society.
I always had taken an interest in young people who wanted to become
poets. I remember I was particularly interested in one budding poet when
I was a reporter. His name was Butter.
One day he came to me and said, disconsolately, that he was going to
commit suicide--he was tired of life, not being able to express his
thoughts in poetic form. Butter asked me what I thought of the idea.
I said I would; that it was a good idea. "You can do me a friendly turn.
You go off in a private place and do it there, and I'll get it all. You
do it, and I'll do as much for you some time."
At first he determined to drown himself. Drowning is so nice and clean,
and writes up so well in a newspaper.
But things ne'er do go smoothly in weddings, suicides, or courtships.
Only there at the edge of the water, where Butter was to end himself,
lay a life-preserver--a big round canvas one, which would float after the
scrap-iron was soaked out of it.
Butter wouldn't kill himself with the life-preserver in sight, and so I
had an idea. I took it to a pawnshop, and [soaked] it for a revolver:
The pawnbroker didn't think much of the exchange, but when I explained
the situation he acquiesced. We went up on top of a high building, and
this is what happened to the poet:
He put the revolver to his forehead and blew a tunnel straight through
his head. The tunnel was about the size of your finger. You could look
right through it. The job was complete; there was nothing in it.
Well, after that that man never could write prose, but he could write
poetry. He could write it after he had blown his brains out. There is
lots of that talent all over the country, but the trouble is they don't
I am suffering now from the fact that I, who have told the truth a good
many times in my life, have lately received more letters than anybody
else urging me to lead a righteous life. I have more friends who want to
see me develop on a high level than anybody else.
Young John D. Rockefeller, two weeks ago, taught his Bible class all
about veracity, and why it was better that everybody should always keep a
plentiful supply on hand. Some of the letters I have received suggest
that I ought to attend his class and learn, too. Why, I know Mr.
Rockefeller, and he is a good fellow. He is competent in many ways to
teach a Bible class, but when it comes to veracity he is only thirty-five
years old. I'm seventy years old. I have been familiar with veracity
twice as long as he.
And the story about George Washington and his little hatchet has also
been suggested to me in these letters--in a fugitive way, as if I needed
some of George Washington and his hatchet in my constitution. Why, dear
me, they overlook the real point in that story. The point is not the one
that is usually suggested, and you can readily see that.
The point is not that George said to his father, "Yes, father, I cut down
the cheery-tree; I can't tell a lie," but that the little boy--only seven
years old--should have his sagacity developed under such circumstances.
He was a boy wise beyond his years. His conduct then was a prophecy of
later years. Yes, I think he was the most remarkable man the country
ever produced-up to my time, anyway.
Now then, little George realized that circumstantial evidence was against
him. He knew that his father would know from the size of the chips that
no full-grown hatchet cut that tree down, and that no man would have
haggled it so. He knew that his father would send around the plantation
and inquire for a small boy with a hatchet, and he had the wisdom to come
out and confess it. Now, the idea that his father was overjoyed when he
told little George that he would rather have him cut down, a thousand
cheery-trees than tell a lie is all nonsense. What did he really mean?
Why, that he was absolutely astonished that he had a son who had the
chance to tell a lie and didn't.
I admire old George--if that was his name--for his discernment. He knew
when he said that his son couldn't tell a lie that he was stretching it a
good deal. He wouldn't have to go to John D. Rockefeller's Bible class
to find that out. The way the old George Washington story goes down it
doesn't do anybody any good. It only discourages people who can tell a
ADDRESS AT THE DINNER IN HIS HONOR AT THE LOTOS CLUB,
NOVEMBER 10, 1900
In August, 1895, just before sailing for Australia, Mr. Clemens issued
the following statement:
"It has been reported that I sacrificed, for the benefit of the
creditors, the property of the publishing firm whose financial backer I
was, and that I am now lecturing for my own benefit.
"This is an error. I intend the lectures, as well as the property, for
the creditors. The law recognizes no mortgage on a man's brains, and a
merchant who has given up all he has may take advantage of the laws of
insolvency and may start free again for himself. But I am not a business
man, and honor is a harder master than the law. It cannot compromise for
less than one hundred cents on a dollar, and its debts are never
"I had a two-thirds interest in the publishing firm whose capital I
furnished. If the firm had prospered I would have expected to collect
two-thirds of the profits. As it is, I expect to pay all the debts. My
partner has no resources, and I do not look for assistance to my wife,
whose contributions in cash from her own means have nearly equalled the
claims of all the creditors combined. She has taken nothing; on the
contrary, she has helped and intends to help me to satisfy the
obligations due to the rest of the creditors.
"It is my intention to ask my creditors to accept that as a legal
discharge, and trust to my honor to pay the other fifty per cent. as fast
as I can earn it. From my reception thus far on my lecturing tour, I am
confident that if I live I can pay off the last debt within four years.
"After which, at the age of sixty-four, I can make a fresh and
unincumbered start in life. I am going to Australia, India, and South
Africa, and next year I hope to make a tour of the great cities of the
I thank you all out of my heart for this fraternal welcome, and it seems
almost too fine, almost too magnificent, for a humble Missourian such as
I am, far from his native haunts on the banks of the Mississippi; yet my
modesty is in a degree fortified by observing that I am not the only
Missourian who has been honored here to-night, for I see at this very
table-here is a Missourian [indicating Mr. McKelway], and there is a
Missourian [indicating Mr. Depew], and there is another Missourian--and
Hendrix and Clemens; and last but not least, the greatest Missourian of
them all--here he sits--Tom Reed, who has always concealed his birth till
now. And since I have been away I know what has been happening in his
case: he has deserted politics, and now is leading a creditable life. He
has reformed, and God prosper him; and I judge, by a remark which he made
up-stairs awhile ago, that he had found a new business that is utterly
suited to his make and constitution, and all he is doing now is that he
is around raising the average of personal beauty.
But I am grateful to the president for the kind words which he has said
of me, and it is not for me to say whether these praises were deserved or
not. I prefer to accept them just as they stand, without concerning
myself with the statistics upon which they have been built, but only with
that large matter, that essential matter, the good-fellowship, the
kindliness, the magnanimity, and generosity that prompted their
utterance. Well, many things have happened since I sat here before, and
now that I think of it, the president's reference to the debts which were
left by the bankrupt firm of Charles L. Webster & Co. gives me an
opportunity to say a word which I very much wish to say, not for myself,
but for ninety-five men and women whom I shall always hold in high esteem
and in pleasant remembrance--the creditors of that firm. They treated me
well; they treated me handsomely. There were ninety-six of them, and by
not a finger's weight did ninety-five of them add to the burden of that
time for me. Ninety-five out of the ninety-six--they didn't indicate by
any word or sign that they were anxious about their money. They treated
me well, and I shall not forget it; I could not forget it if I wanted to.
Many of them said, "Don't you worry, don't you hurry"; that's what they
said. Why, if I could have that kind of creditors always, and that
experience, I would recognize it as a personal loss to be out of debt.
I owe those ninety-five creditors a debt of homage, and I pay it now in
such measure as one may pay so fine a debt in mere words. Yes, they said
that very thing. I was not personally acquainted with ten of them, and
yet they said, "Don't you worry, and don't you hurry." I know that
phrase by heart, and if all the other music should perish out of the
world it would still sing to me. I appreciate that; I am glad to say
this word; people say so much about me, and they forget those creditors.
They were handsomer than I was--or Tom Reed.
Oh, you have been doing many things in this time that I have been absent;
you have done lots of things, some that are well worth remembering, too.
Now, we have fought a righteous war since I have gone, and that is rare
in history--a righteous war is so rare that it is almost unknown in
history; but by the grace of that war we set Cuba free, and we joined her
to those three or four nations that exist on this earth; and we started
out to set those poor Filipinos free, too, and why, why, why that most
righteous purpose of ours has apparently miscarried I suppose I never
But we have made a most creditable record in China in these days--our
sound and level-headed administration has made a most creditable record
over there, and there are some of the Powers that cannot say that by any
means. The Yellow Terror is threatening this world to-day. It is
looming vast and ominous on that distant horizon. I do not know what is
going to be the result of that Yellow Terror, but our government has had
no hand in evoking it, and let's be happy in that and proud of it.
We have nursed free silver, we watched by its cradle; we have done the
best we could to raise that child, but those pestiferous Republicans have
--well, they keep giving it the measles every chance they get, and we
never shall raise that child. Well, that's no matter--there's plenty of
other things to do, and we must think of something else. Well, we have
tried a President four years, criticised him and found fault with him the
whole time, and turned around a day or two ago with votes enough to spare
to elect another. O consistency! consistency! thy name--I don't know
what thy name is--Thompson will do--any name will do--but you see there
is the fact, there is the consistency. Then we have tried for governor
an illustrious Rough Rider, and we liked him so much in that great office
that now we have made him Vice-President--not in order that that office
shall give him distinction, but that he may confer distinction upon that
office. And it's needed, too--it's needed. And now, for a while anyway,
we shall not be stammering and embarrassed when a stranger asks us, "What
is the name of the Vice-President?" This one is known; this one is
pretty well known, pretty widely known, and in some quarters favorably.
I am not accustomed to dealing in these fulsome compliments, and I am
probably overdoing it a little; but--well, my old affectionate admiration
for Governor Roosevelt has probably betrayed me into the complimentary
excess; but I know him, and you know him; and if you give him rope
enough--I mean if--oh yes, he will justify that compliment; leave it just
as it is. And now we have put in his place Mr. Odell, another Rough
Rider, I suppose; all the fat things go to that profession now. Why, I
could have been a Rough Rider myself if I had known that this political
Klondike was going to open up, and I would have been a Rough Rider if I
could have gone to war on an automobile but not on a horse! No, I know
the horse too well; I have known the horse in war and in peace, and there
is no place where a horse is comfortable. The horse has too many
caprices, and he is too much given to initiative. He invents too many
new ideas. No, I don't want anything to do with a horse.
And then we have taken Chauncey Depew out of a useful and active life and
made him a Senator--embalmed him, corked him up. And I am not grieving.
That man has said many a true thing about me in his time, and I always
said something would happen to him. Look at that [pointing to Mr. Depew]
gilded mummy! He has made my life a sorrow to me at many a banquet on
both sides of the ocean, and now he has got it. Perish the hand that
pulls that cork!
All these things have happened, all these things have come to pass, while
I have been away, and it just shows how little a Mugwump can be missed in
a cold, unfeeling world, even when he is the last one that is left
--a GRAND OLD PARTY all by himself. And there is another thing that has
happened, perhaps the most imposing event of them all: the institution
called the Daughters of the--Crown--the Daughters of the Royal Crown--has
established itself and gone into business. Now, there's an American idea
for you; there's an idea born of God knows what kind of specialized
insanity, but not softening of the brain--you cannot soften a thing that
doesn't exist--the Daughters of the Royal Crown! Nobody eligible but
American descendants of Charles II. Dear me, how the fancy product of
that old harem still holds out!
Well, I am truly glad to foregather with you again, and partake of the
bread and salt of this hospitable house once more. Seven years ago, when
I was your guest here, when I was old and despondent, you gave me the
grip and the word that lift a man up and make him glad to be alive; and
now I come back from my exile young again, fresh and alive, and ready to
begin life once more, and your welcome puts the finishing touch upon my
restored youth and makes it real to me, and not a gracious dream that
must vanish with the morning. I thank you.
AN UNDELIVERED SPEECH
The steamship St. Paul was to have been launched from Cramp's
shipyard in Philadelphia on March 25, 1895. After the
launching a luncheon was to have been given, at which Mr.
Clemens was to make a speech. Just before the final word was
given a reporter asked Mr. Clemens for a copy of his speech to
be delivered at the luncheon. To facilitate the work of the
reporter he loaned him a typewritten copy of the speech. It
happened, however, that when the blocks were knocked away the
big ship refused to budge, and no amount of labor could move
her an inch. She had stuck fast upon the ways. As a result,
the launching was postponed for a week or two; but in the mean
time Mr. Clemens had gone to Europe. Years after a reporter
called on Mr. Clemens and submitted the manuscript of the
speech, which was as follows:
Day after to-morrow I sail for England in a ship of this line, the Paris.
It will be my fourteenth crossing in three years and a half. Therefore,
my presence here, as you see, is quite natural, quite commercial. I am
interested in ships. They interest me more now than hotels do. When a
new ship is launched I feel a desire to go and see if she will be good
quarters for me to live in, particularly if she belongs to this line, for
it is by this line that I have done most of my ferrying.
People wonder why I go so much. Well, I go partly for my health, partly
to familiarize myself with the road. I have gone over the same road so
many times now that I know all the whales that belong along the route,
and latterly it is an embarrassment to me to meet them, for they do not
look glad to see me, but annoyed, and they seem to say: "Here is this old
Earlier in life this would have pained me and made me ashamed, but I am
older now, and when I am behaving myself, and doing right, I do not care
for a whale's opinion about me. When we are young we generally estimate
an opinion by the size of the person that holds it, but later we find
that that is an uncertain rule, for we realize that there are times when
a hornet's opinion disturbs us more than an emperor's.
I do not mean that I care nothing at all for a whale's opinion, for that
would be going to too great a length. Of course, it is better to have
the good opinion of a whale than his disapproval; but my position is that
if you cannot have a whale's good opinion, except at some sacrifice of
principle or personal dignity, it is better to try to live without it.
That is my idea about whales.
Yes, I have gone over that same route so often that I know my way without
a compass, just by the waves. I know all the large waves and a good many
of the small ones. Also the sunsets. I know every sunset and where it
belongs just by its color. Necessarily, then, I do not make the passage
now for scenery. That is all gone by.
What I prize most is safety, and in, the second place swift transit and
handiness. These are best furnished, by the American line, whose
watertight compartments have no passage through them; no doors to be left
open, and consequently no way for water to get from one of them to
another in time of collision. If you nullify the peril which collisions
threaten you with, you nullify the only very serious peril which attends
voyages in the great liners of our day, and makes voyaging safer than
staying at home.
When the Paris was half-torn to pieces some years ago, enough of the
Atlantic ebbed and flowed through one end of her, during her long agony,
to sink the fleets of the world if distributed among them; but she
floated in perfect safety, and no life was lost. In time of collision
the rock of Gibraltar is not safer than the Paris and other great ships
of this line. This seems to be the only great line in the world that
takes a passenger from metropolis to metropolis without the intervention
of tugs and barges or bridges--takes him through without breaking bulk,
so to speak.
On the English side he lands at a dock; on the dock a special train is
waiting; in an hour and three-quarters he is in, London. Nothing could
be handier. If your journey were from a sand-pit on our side to a
lighthouse on the other, you could make it quicker by other lines, but
that is not the case. The journey is from the city of New York to the
city of London, and no line can do that journey quicker than this one,
nor anywhere near as conveniently and handily. And when the passenger
lands on our side he lands on the American side of the river, not in the
provinces. As a very learned man said on the last voyage (he is head
quartermaster of the New York land garboard streak of the middle watch)
"When we land a passenger on the American side there's nothing betwix him
and his hotel but hell and the hackman."
I am glad, with you and the nation, to welcome the new ship. She is
another pride, another consolation, for a great country whose mighty
fleets have all vanished, and which has almost forgotten, what it is to
fly its flag to sea. I am not sure as to which St. Paul she is named
for. Some think it is the one that is on the upper Mississippi, but the
head quartermaster told me it was the one that killed Goliath. But it is
not important. No matter which it is, let us give her hearty welcome and
AT THE METROPOLITAN CLUB, NEW YORK, NOVEMBER 28, 1902
Address at a dinner given in honor of Mr. Clemens by Colonel
Harvey, President of Harper & Brothers.
I think I ought to be allowed to talk as long as I want to, for the
reason that I have cancelled all my winter's engagements of every kind,
for good and sufficient reasons, and am making no new engagements for
this winter, and, therefore, this is the only chance I shall have to
disembowel my skull for a year--close the mouth in that portrait for a
year. I want to offer thanks and homage to the chairman for this
innovation which he has introduced here, which is an improvement, as I
consider it, on the old-fashioned style of conducting occasions like
this. That was bad that was a bad, bad, bad arrangement. Under that old
custom the chairman got up and made a speech, he introduced the prisoner
at the bar, and covered him all over with compliments, nothing but
compliments, not a thing but compliments, never a slur, and sat down and
left that man to get up and talk without a text. You cannot talk on
compliments; that is not a text. No modest person, and I was born one,
can talk on compliments. A man gets up and is filled to the eyes with
happy emotions, but his tongue is tied; he has nothing to say; he is in
the condition of Doctor Rice's friend who came home drunk and explained
it to his wife, and his wife said to him, "John, when you have drunk all
the whiskey you want, you ought to ask for sarsaparilla." He said, "Yes,
but when I have drunk all the whiskey I want I can't say sarsaparilla."
And so I think it is much better to leave a man unmolested until the
testimony and pleadings are all in. Otherwise he is dumb--he is at the
Before I get to the higgledy-piggledy point, as Mr. Howells suggested I
do, I want to thank you, gentlemen, for this very high honor you are
doing me, and I am quite competent to estimate it at its value. I see
around me captains of all the illustrious industries, most distinguished
men; there are more than fifty here, and I believe I know thirty-nine of
them well. I could probably borrow money from--from the others, anyway.
It is a proud thing to me, indeed, to see such a distinguished company
gather here on such an occasion as this, when there is no foreign prince
to be feted--when you have come here not to do honor to hereditary
privilege and ancient lineage, but to do reverence to mere moral
excellence and elemental veracity-and, dear me, how old it seems to make
me! I look around me and I see three or four persons I have known so
many, many years. I have known Mr. Secretary Hay--John Hay, as the
nation and the rest of his friends love to call him--I have known John
Hay and Tom Reed and the Reverend Twichell close upon thirty-six years.
Close upon thirty-six years I have known those venerable men. I have
known Mr. Howells nearly thirty-four years, and I knew Chauncey Depew
before he could walk straight, and before he learned to tell the truth.
Twenty-seven years ago, I heard him make the most noble and eloquent and
beautiful speech that has ever fallen from even his capable lips. Tom
Reed said that my principal defect was inaccuracy of statement. Well,
suppose that that is true. What's the use of telling the truth all the
time? I never tell the truth about Tom Reed--but that is his defect,
truth; he speaks the truth always. Tom Reed has a good heart, and he has
a good intellect, but he hasn't any judgment. Why, when Tom Reed was
invited to lecture to the Ladies' Society for the Procreation or
Procrastination, or something, of morals, I don't know what it was
--advancement, I suppose, of pure morals--he had the immortal indiscretion
to begin by saying that some of us can't be optimists, but by judiciously
utilizing the opportunities that Providence puts in our way we can all be
bigamists. You perceive his limitations. Anything he has in his mind he
states, if he thinks it is true. Well, that was true, but that was no
place to say it--so they fired him out.
A lot of accounts have been settled here tonight for me; I have held
grudges against some of these people, but they have all been wiped out by
the very handsome compliments that have been paid me. Even Wayne
MacVeagh--I have had a grudge against him many years. The first time I
saw Wayne MacVeagh was at a private dinner-party at Charles A. Dana's,
and when I got there he was clattering along, and I tried to get a word
in here and there; but you know what Wayne MacVeagh is when he is
started, and I could not get in five words to his one--or one word to his
five. I struggled along and struggled along, and--well, I wanted to tell
and I was trying to tell a dream I had had the night before, and it was a
remarkable dream, a dream worth people's while to listen to, a dream
recounting Sam Jones the revivalist's reception in heaven. I was on a
train, and was approaching the celestial way-station--I had a through
ticket--and I noticed a man sitting alongside of me asleep, and he had
his ticket in his hat. He was the remains of the Archbishop of
Canterbury; I recognized him by his photograph. I had nothing against
him, so I took his ticket and let him have mine. He didn't object--he
wasn't in a condition to object--and presently when the train stopped at
the heavenly station--well, I got off, and he went on by request--but
there they all were, the angels, you know, millions of them, every one
with a torch; they had arranged for a torch-light procession; they were
expecting the Archbishop, and when I got off they started to raise a
shout, but it didn't materialize. I don't know whether they were
disappointed. I suppose they had a lot of superstitious ideas about the
Archbishop and what he should look like, and I didn't fill the bill, and
I was trying to explain to Saint Peter, and was doing it in the German
tongue, because I didn't want to be too explicit. Well, I found it was
no use, I couldn't get along, for Wayne MacVeagh was occupying the whole
place, and I said to Mr. Dana, "What is the matter with that man? Who is
that man with the long tongue? What's the trouble with him, that long,
lank cadaver, old oil-derrick out of a job--who is that?" "Well, now,"
Mr. Dana said, "you don't want to meddle with him; you had better keep
quiet; just keep quiet, because that's a bad man. Talk! He was born to
talk. Don't let him get out with you; he'll skin you." I said, "I have
been skinned, skinned, and skinned for years, there is nothing left."
He said, "Oh, you'll find there is; that man is the very seed and
inspiration of that proverb which says, 'No matter how close you skin an
onion, a clever man can always peel it again.'" Well, I reflected and
I quieted down. That would never occur to Tom Reed. He's got no
discretion. Well, MacVeagh is just the same man; he hasn't changed a bit
in all those years; he has been peeling Mr. Mitchell lately. That's the
kind of man he is.
Mr. Howells--that poem of his is admirable; that's the way to treat a
person. Howells has a peculiar gift for seeing the merits of people,
and he has always exhibited them in my favor. Howells has never written
anything about me that I couldn't read six or seven times a day; he is
always just and always fair; he has written more appreciatively of me
than any one in this world, and published it in the North American
Review. He did me the justice to say that my intentions--he italicized
that--that my intentions were always good, that I wounded people's
conventions rather than their convictions. Now, I wouldn't want anything
handsomer than that said of me. I would rather wait, with anything harsh
I might have to say, till the convictions become conventions. Bangs has
traced me all the way down. He can't find that honest man, but I will
look for him in the looking-glass when I get home. It was intimated by
the Colonel that it is New England that makes New York and builds up this
country and makes it great, overlooking the fact that there's a lot of
people here who came from elsewhere, like John Hay from away out West,
and Howells from Ohio, and St. Clair McKelway and me from Missouri, and
we are doing what we can to build up New York a little-elevate it. Why,
when I was living in that village of Hannibal, Missouri, on the banks of
the Mississippi, and Hay up in the town of Warsaw, also on the banks of
the Mississippi River it is an emotional bit of the Mississippi, and when
it is low water you have to climb up to it on a ladder, and when it
floods you have to hunt for it; with a deep-sea lead--but it is a great
and beautiful country. In that old time it was a paradise for
simplicity--it was a simple, simple life, cheap but comfortable, and full
of sweetness, and there was nothing of this rage of modern civilization
there at all. It was a delectable land. I went out there last June,
and I met in that town of Hannibal a schoolmate of mine, John Briggs,
whom I had not seen for more than fifty years. I tell you, that was a
meeting! That pal whom I had known as a little boy long ago, and knew
now as a stately man three or four inches over six feet and browned by
exposure to many climes, he was back there to see that old place again.
We spent a whole afternoon going about here and there and yonder, and
hunting up the scenes and talking of the crimes which we had committed so
long ago. It was a heartbreaking delight, full of pathos, laughter, and
tears, all mixed together; and we called the roll of the boys and girls
that we picnicked and sweethearted with so many years ago, and there were
hardly half a dozen of them left; the rest were in their graves; and we
went up there on the summit of that hill, a treasured place in my memory,
the summit of Holiday's Hill, and looked out again over that magnificent
panorama of the Mississippi River, sweeping along league after league, a
level green paradise on one side, and retreating capes and promontories
as far as you could see on the other, fading away in the soft, rich
lights of the remote distance. I recognized then that I was seeing now
the most enchanting river view the planet could furnish. I never knew it
when I was a boy; it took an educated eye that had travelled over the
globe to know and appreciate it; and John said, "Can you point out the
place where Bear Creek used to be before the railroad came?" I said,
"Yes, it ran along yonder." "And can you point out the swimming-hole?"
"Yes, out there." And he said, "Can you point out the place where we
stole the skiff?" Well, I didn't know which one he meant. Such a
wilderness of events had intervened since that day, more than fifty years
ago, it took me more than five minutes to call back that little incident,
and then I did call it back; it was a white skiff, and we painted it red
to allay suspicion. And the saddest, saddest man came along--a stranger
he was--and he looked that red skiff over so pathetically, and he said:
"Well, if it weren't for the complexion I'd know whose skiff that was."
He said it in that pleading way, you know, that appeals for sympathy and
suggestion; we were full of sympathy for him, but we weren't in any
condition to offer suggestions. I can see him yet as he turned away with
that same sad look on his face and vanished out of history forever.
I wonder what became of that man. I know what became of the skiff.
Well, it was a beautiful life, a lovely life. There was no crime.
Merely little things like pillaging orchards and watermelon-patches and
breaking the Sabbath--we didn't break the Sabbath often enough to
signify--once a week perhaps. But we were good boys, good Presbyterian
boys, all Presbyterian boys, and loyal and all that; anyway, we were good
Presbyterian boys when the weather was doubtful; when it was fair, we did
wander a little from the fold.
Look at John Hay and me. There we were in obscurity, and look where we
are now. Consider the ladder which he has climbed, the illustrious
vocations he has served--and vocations is the right word; he has in all
those vocations acquitted himself with high credit and honor to his
country and to the mother that bore him. Scholar, soldier, diplomat,
poet, historian--now, see where we are. He is Secretary of State and I
am a gentleman. It could not happen in any other country. Our
institutions give men the positions that of right belong to them through
merit; all you men have won your places, not by heredities, and not by
family influence or extraneous help, but only by the natural gifts God
gave you at your birth, made effective by your own energies; this is the
country to live in.
Now, there is one invisible guest here. A part of me is present; the
larger part, the better part, is yonder at her home; that is my wife,
and she has a good many personal friends here, and I think it won't
distress any one of them to know that, although she is going to be
confined to that bed for many months to come from that nervous
prostration, there is not any danger and she is coming along very well
--and I think it quite appropriate that I should speak of her. I knew
her for the first time just in the same year that I first knew John Hay
and Tom Reed and Mr. Twichell--thirty-six years ago--and she has been the
best friend I have ever had, and that is saying a good deal; she has
reared me--she and Twichell together--and what I am I owe to them.
Twichell why, it is such a pleasure to look upon Twichell's face! For
five-and-twenty years I was under the Rev. Mr. Twichell's tuition, I was
in his pastorate, occupying a pew in his church, and held him in due
reverence. That man is full of all the graces that go to make a person
companionable and beloved; and wherever Twichell goes to start a church
the people flock there to buy the land; they find real estate goes up all
around the spot, and the envious and the thoughtful always try to get
Twichell to move to their neighborhood and start a church; and wherever
you see him go you can go and buy land there with confidence, feeling
sure that there will be a double price for you before very long. I am not
saying this to flatter Mr. Twichell; it is the fact. Many and many a
time I have attended the annual sale in his church, and bought up all the
pews on a margin--and it would have been better for me spiritually and
financially if I had stayed under his wing.
I have tried to do good in this world, and it is marvellous in how many
different ways I have done good, and it is comfortable to reflect--now,
there's Mr. Rogers--just out of the affection I bear that man many a time
I have given him points in finance that he had never thought of--and if
he could lay aside envy, prejudice, and superstition, and utilize those
ideas in his business, it would make a difference in his bank account.
Well, I like the poetry. I like all the speeches and the poetry, too.
I liked Doctor Van Dyke's poem. I wish I could return thanks in proper
measure to you, gentlemen, who have spoken and violated your feelings to
pay me compliments; some were merited and some you overlooked, it is
true; and Colonel Harvey did slander every one of you, and put things
into my mouth that I never said, never thought of at all.
And now, my wife and I, out of our single heart, return you our deepest
and most grateful thanks, and--yesterday was her birthday.
TO THE WHITEFRIARS
ADDRESS AT THE DINNER GIVEN BY THE WHITEFRIARS CLUB IN HONOR OF
MR. CLEMENS, LONDON, JUNE 20, 1899
The Whitefriars Club was founded by Dr. Samuel Johnson, and Mr.
Clemens was made an honorary member in 1874. The members are
representative of literary and journalistic London. The toast
of "Our Guest" was proposed by Louis F. Austin, of the
Illustrated London News, and in the course of some humorous
remarks he referred to the vow and to the imaginary woes of the
"Friars," as the members of the club style themselves.
MR. CHAIRMAN AND BRETHREN OF THE VOW--in whatever the vow is; for
although I have been a member of this club for five-and twenty years,
I don't know any more about what that vow is than Mr. Austin seems to.
But what ever the vow is, I don't care what it is. I have made a
There is no pleasure comparable to making a vow in the presence of one
who appreciates that vow, in the presence of men who honor and appreciate
you for making the vow, and men who admire you for making the vow.
There is only one pleasure higher than that, and that is to get outside
and break the vow. A vow is always a pledge of some kind or other for
the protection of your own morals and principles or somebody else's,
and generally, by the irony of fate, it is for the protection of your own
Hence we have pledges that make us eschew tobacco or wine, and while you
are taking the pledge there is a holy influence about that makes you feel
you are reformed, and that you can never be so happy again in this world
until--you get outside and take a drink.
I had forgotten that I was a member of this club--it is so long ago.
But now I remember that I was here five-and-twenty years ago, and that I
was then at a dinner of the Whitefriars Club, and it was in those old
days when you had just made two great finds. All London was talking
about nothing else than that they had found Livingstone, and that the
lost Sir Roger Tichborne had been found--and they were trying him for it.
And at the dinner, Chairman (I do not know who he was)--failed to come to
time. The gentleman who had been appointed to pay me the customary
compliments and to introduce me forgot the compliments, and did not know
what they were.
And George Augustus Sala came in at the last moment, just when I was
about to go without compliments altogether. And that man was a gifted
man. They just called on him instantaneously, while he was going to sit
down, to introduce the stranger, and Sala, made one of those marvellous
speeches which he was capable of making. I think no man talked so fast
as Sala did. One did not need wine while he was making a speech. The
rapidity of his utterance made a man drunk in a minute. An incomparable
speech was that, an impromptu speech, and--an impromptu speech is a
seldom thing, and he did it so well.
He went into the whole history of the United States, and made it entirely
new to me. He filled it with episodes and incidents that Washington
never heard of, and he did it so convincingly that although I knew none
of it had happened, from that day to this I do not know any history but
I do not know anything so sad as a dinner where you are going to get up
and say something by-and-by, and you do not know what it is. You sit and
wonder and wonder what the gentleman is going to say who is going to
introduce you. You know that if he says something severe, that if he
will deride you, or traduce you, or do anything of that kind, he will
furnish you with a text, because anybody can get up and talk against
Anybody can get up and straighten out his character. But when a
gentleman gets up and merely tells the truth about you, what can you do?
Mr. Austin has done well. He has supplied so many texts that I will have
to drop out a lot of them, and that is about as difficult as when you do
not have any text at all. Now, he made a beautiful and smooth speech
without any difficulty at all, and I could have done that if I had gone
on with the schooling with which I began. I see here a gentleman on my
left who was my master in the art of oratory more than twenty-five years
When I look upon the inspiring face of Mr. Depew, it carries me a long
way back. An old and valued friend of mine is he, and I saw his career
as it came along, and it has reached pretty well up to now, when he, by
another miscarriage of justice, is a United States Senator. But those
were delightful days when I was taking lessons in oratory.
My other master the Ambassador-is not here yet. Under those two
gentlemen I learned to make after-dinner speeches, and it was charming.
You know the New England dinner is the great occasion on the other side
of the water. It is held every year to celebrate the landing of the
Pilgrims. Those Pilgrims were a lot of people who were not needed in
England, and you know they had great rivalry, and they were persuaded to
go elsewhere, and they chartered a ship called Mayflower and set sail,
and I have heard it said that they pumped the Atlantic Ocean through that
ship sixteen times.
They fell in over there with the Dutch from Rotterdam, Amsterdam, and a
lot of other places with profane names, and it is from that gang that Mr.
Depew is descended.
On the other hand, Mr. Choate is descended from those Puritans who landed
on a bitter night in December. Every year those people used to meet at a
great banquet in New York, and those masters of mind in oratory had to
make speeches. It was Doctor Depew's business to get up there and
apologise for the Dutch, and Mr. Choate had to get up later and explain
the crimes of the Puritans, and grand, beautiful times we used to have.
It is curious that after that long lapse of time I meet the Whitefriars
again, some looking as young and fresh as in the old days, others showing
a certain amount of wear and tear, and here, after all this time, I find
one of the masters of oratory and the others named in the list.
And here we three meet again as exiles on one pretext or another, and you
will notice that while we are absent there is a pleasing tranquillity in
America--a building up of public confidence. We are doing the best we
can for our country. I think we have spent our lives in serving our
country, and we never serve it to greater advantage than when we get out
But impromptu speaking--that is what I was trying to learn. That is a
difficult thing. I used to do it in this way. I used to begin about a
week ahead, and write out my impromptu, speech and get it by heart. Then
I brought it to the New England dinner printed on a piece of paper in my
pocket, so that I could pass it to the reporters all cut and dried, and
in order to do an impromptu speech as it should be done you have to
indicate the places for pauses and hesitations. I put them all in it.
And then you want the applause in the right places.
When I got to the place where it should come in, if it did not come in
I did not care, but I had it marked in the paper. And these masters of
mind used to wonder why it was my speech came out in the morning in the
first person, while theirs went through the butchery of synopsis.
I do that kind of speech (I mean an offhand speech), and do it well, and
make no mistake in such a way to deceive the audience completely and make
that audience believe it is an impromptu speech--that is art.
I was frightened out of it at last by an experience of Doctor Hayes. He
was a sort of Nansen of that day. He had been to the North Pole, and it
made him celebrated. He had even seen the polar bear climb the pole.
He had made one of those magnificent voyages such as Nansen made, and in
those days when a man did anything which greatly distinguished him for
the moment he had to come on to the lecture platform and tell all about
Doctor Hayes was a great, magnificent creature like Nansen, superbly
built. He was to appear in Boston. He wrote his lecture out, and it was
his purpose to read it from manuscript; but in an evil hour he concluded
that it would be a good thing to preface it with something rather
handsome, poetical, and beautiful that he could get off by heart and
deliver as if it were the thought of the moment.
He had not had my experience, and could not do that. He came on the
platform, held his manuscript down, and began with a beautiful piece of
oratory. He spoke something like this:
"When a lonely human being, a pigmy in the midst of the architecture of
nature, stands solitary on those icy waters and looks abroad to the
horizon and sees mighty castles and temples of eternal ice raising up
their pinnacles tipped by the pencil of the departing sun--"
Here a man came across the platform and touched him on the shoulder, and
said: "One minute." And then to the audience:
"Is Mrs. John Smith in the house? Her husband has slipped on the ice and
broken his leg."
And you could see the Mrs. John Smiths get up everywhere and drift out of
the house, and it made great gaps everywhere. Then Doctor Hayes began
again: "When a lonely man, a pigmy in the architecture--" The janitor
came in again and shouted: "It is not Mrs. John Smith! It is Mrs. John
Then all the Mrs. Jones got up and left. Once more the speaker started,
and was in the midst of the sentence when he was interrupted again, and
the result was that the lecture was not delivered. But the lecturer
interviewed the janitor afterward in a private room, and of the fragments
of the janitor they took "twelve basketsful."
Now, I don't want to sit down just in this way. I have been talking with
so much levity that I have said no serious thing, and you are really no
better or wiser, although Robert Buchanan has suggested that I am a
person who deals in wisdom. I have said nothing which would make you
better than when you came here.
I should be sorry to sit down without having said one serious word which
you can carry home and relate to your children and the old people who are
not able to get away.
And this is just a little maxim which has saved me from many a difficulty
and many a disaster, and in times of tribulation and uncertainty has come
to my rescue, as it shall to yours if you observe it as I do day and
I always use it in an emergency, and you can take it home as a legacy
from me, and it is "When in doubt, tell the truth."
THE ASCOT GOLD CUP
The news of Mr. Clemens's arrival in England in June, 1907, was
announced in the papers with big headlines. Immediately
following the announcement was the news--also with big
headlines--that the Ascot Gold Cup had been stolen the same
day. The combination, MARK TWAIN ARRIVES-ASCOT CUP STOLEN,
amused the public. The Lord Mayor of London gave a banquet at
the Mansion House in honor of Mr. Clemens.
I do assure you that I am not so dishonest as I look. I have been so
busy trying to rehabilitate my honor about that Ascot Cup that I have had
no time to prepare a speech.
I was not so honest in former days as I am now, but I have always been
reasonably honest. Well, you know how a man is influenced by his
surroundings. Once upon a time I went to a public meeting where the
oratory of a charitable worker so worked on my feelings that, in common
with others, I would have dropped something substantial in the hat--if it
had come round at that moment.
The speaker had the power of putting those vivid pictures before one.
We were all affected. That was the moment for the hat. I would have put
two hundred dollars in. Before he had finished I could have put in four
hundred dollars. I felt I could have filled up a blank check--with
somebody else's name--and dropped it in.
Well, now, another speaker got up, and in fifteen minutes damped my
spirit; and during the speech of the third speaker all my enthusiasm went
away. When at last the hat came round I dropped in ten cents--and took
I came over here to get the honorary degree from Oxford, and I would have
encompassed the seven seas for an honor like that--the greatest honor
that has ever fallen to my share. I am grateful to Oxford for conferring
that honor upon me, and I am sure my country appreciates it, because
first and foremost it is an honor to my country.
And now I am going home again across the sea. I am in spirit young but
in the flesh old, so that it is unlikely that when I go away I shall ever
see England again. But I shall go with the recollection of the generous
and kindly welcome I have had.
I suppose I must say "Good-bye." I say it not with my lips only, but
from the heart.
THE SAVAGE CLUB DINNER
A portrait of Mr. Clemens, signed by all the members of the
club attending the dinner, was presented to him, July 6, 1907,
and in submitting the toast "The Health of Mark Twain" Mr. J.
Scott Stokes recalled the fact that he had read parts of Doctor
Clemens's works to Harold Frederic during Frederic's last
MR. CHAIRMAN AND FELLOW-SAVAGES,--I am very glad indeed to have that
portrait. I think it is the best one that I have ever had, and there
have been opportunities before to get a good photograph. I have sat to
photographers twenty-two times to-day. Those sittings added to those
that have preceded them since I have been in Europe--if we average at
that rate--must have numbered one hundred to two hundred sittings. Out
of all those there ought to be some good photographs. This is the best I
have had, and I am glad to have your honored names on it. I did not know
Harold Frederic personally, but I have heard a great deal about him, and
nothing that was not pleasant and nothing except such things as lead a
man to honor another man and to love him. I consider that it is a
misfortune of mine that I have never had the luck to meet him, and if any
book of mine read to him in his last hours made those hours easier for
him and more comfortable, I am very glad and proud of that. I call to
mind such a case many years ago of an English authoress, well known in
her day, who wrote such beautiful child tales, touching and lovely in
every possible way. In a little biographical sketch of her I found that
her last hours were spent partly in reading a book of mine, until she was
no longer able to read. That has always remained in my mind, and I have
always cherished it as one of the good things of my life. I had read
what she had written, and had loved her for what she had done.
Stanley apparently carried a book of mine feloniously away to Africa,
and I have not a doubt that it had a noble and uplifting influence there
in the wilds of Africa--because on his previous journeys he never carried
anything to read except Shakespeare and the Bible. I did not know of
that circumstance. I did not know that he had carried a book of mine.
I only noticed that when he came back he was a reformed man. I knew
Stanley very well in those old days. Stanley was the first man who ever
reported a lecture of mine, and that was in St. Louis. When I was down
there the next time to give the same lecture I was told to give them
something fresh, as they had read that in the papers. I met Stanley here
when he came back from that first expedition of his which closed with the
finding of Livingstone. You remember how he would break out at the
meetings of the British Association, and find fault with what people
said, because Stanley had notions of his own, and could not contain them.
They had to come out or break him up--and so he would go round and
address geographical societies. He was always on the warpath in those
days, and people always had to have Stanley contradicting their geography
for them and improving it. But he always came back and sat drinking beer
with me in the hotel up to two in the morning, and he was then one of the
most civilized human beings that ever was.
I saw in a newspaper this evening a reference to an interview which
appeared in one of the papers the other day, in which the interviewer
said that I characterized Mr. Birrell's speech the other day at the
Pilgrims' Club as "bully." Now, if you will excuse me, I never use slang
to an interviewer or anybody else. That distresses me. Whatever I said
about Mr. Birrell's speech was said in English, as good English as
anybody uses. If I could not describe Mr. Birrell's delightful speech
without using slang I would not describe it at all. I would close my
mouth and keep it closed, much as it would discomfort me.
Now that comes of interviewing a man in the first person, which is an
altogether wrong way to interview him. It is entirely wrong because none
of you, I, or anybody else, could interview a man--could listen to a man
talking any length of time and then go off and reproduce that talk in the
first person. It can't be done. What results is merely that the
interviewer gives the substance of what is said and puts it in his own
language and puts it in your mouth. It will always be either better
language than you use or worse, and in my case it is always worse.
I have a great respect for the English language. I am one of its
supporters, its promoters, its elevators. I don't degrade it. A slip of
the tongue would be the most that you would get from me. I have always
tried hard and faithfully to improve my English and never to degrade it.
I always try to use the best English to describe what I think and what I
feel, or what I don't feel and what I don't think.
I am not one of those who in expressing opinions confine themselves to
facts. I don't know anything that mars good literature so completely as
too much truth. Facts contain a deal of poetry, but you can't use too
many of them without damaging your literature. I love all literature,
and as long as I am a doctor of literature--I have suggested to you for
twenty years I have been diligently trying to improve my own literature,
and now, by virtue of the University of Oxford, I mean to doctor
Now I think I ought to apologize for my clothes. At home I venture
things that I am not permitted by my family to venture in foreign parts.
I was instructed before I left home and ordered to refrain from white
clothes in England. I meant to keep that command fair and clean, and I
would have done it if I had been in the habit of obeying instructions,
but I can't invent a new process in life right away. I have not had
white clothes on since I crossed the ocean until now.
In these three or four weeks I have grown so tired of gray and black that
you have earned my gratitude in permitting me to come as I have. I wear
white clothes in the depth of winter in my home, but I don't go out in
the streets in them. I don't go out to attract too much attention.
I like to attract some, and always I would like to be dressed so that I
may be more conspicuous than anybody else.
If I had been an ancient Briton, I would not have contented myself with
blue paint, but I would have bankrupted the rainbow. I so enjoy gay
clothes in which women clothe themselves that it always grieves me when I
go to the opera to see that, while women look like a flower-bed, the men
are a few gray stumps among them in their black evening dress. These are
two or three reasons why I wish to wear white clothes: When I find
myself in assemblies like this, with everybody in black clothes, I know I
possess something that is superior to everybody else's. Clothes are
never clean. You don't know whether they are clean or not, because you
Here or anywhere you must scour your head every two or three days or it
is full of grit. Your clothes must collect just as much dirt as your
hair. If you wear white clothes you are clean, and your cleaning bill
gets so heavy that you have to take care. I am proud to say that I can
wear a white suit of clothes without a blemish for three days. If you
need any further instruction in the matter of clothes I shall be glad to
give it to you. I hope I have convinced some of you that it is just as
well to wear white clothes as any other kind. I do not want to boast.
I only want to make you understand that you are not clean.
As to age, the fact that I am nearly seventy-two years old does not
clearly indicate how old I am, because part of every day--it is with me
as with you, you try to describe your age, and you cannot do it.
Sometimes you are only fifteen; sometimes you are twenty-five. It is
very seldom in a day that I am seventy-two years old. I am older now
sometimes than I was when I used to rob orchards; a thing which I would
not do to-day--if the orchards were watched. I am so glad to be here
to-night. I am so glad to renew with the Savages that now ancient time
when I first sat with a company of this club in London in 1872. That is
a long time ago. But I did stay with the Savages a night in London long
ago, and as I had come into a very strange land, and was with friends, as
I could see, that has always remained in my mind as a peculiarly blessed
evening, since it brought me into contact with men of my own kind and my
I am glad to be here, and to see you all again, because it is very likely
that I shall not see you again. It is easier than I thought to come
across the Atlantic. I have been received, as you know, in the most
delightfully generous way in England ever since I came here. It keeps me
choked up all the time. Everybody is so generous, and they do seem to
give you such a hearty welcome. Nobody in the world can appreciate it
higher than I do. It did not wait till I got to London, but when I came
ashore at Tilbury the stevedores on the dock raised the first welcome
--a good and hearty welcome from the men who do the heavy labor in the
world, and save you and me having to do it. They are the men who with
their hands build empires and make them prosper. It is because of them
that the others are wealthy and can live in luxury. They received me
with a "Hurrah!" that went to my heart. They are the men that build
civilization, and without them no civilization can be built. So I came
first to the authors and creators of civilization, and I blessedly end
this happy meeting with the Savages who destroy it.
GENERAL MILES AND THE DOG
Mr. Clemens was the guest of honor at a dinner given by the
Pleiades Club at the Hotel Brevoort, December 22, 1907. The
toastmaster introduced the guest of the evening with a high
tribute to his place in American literature, saying that he was
dear to the hearts of all Americans.
It is hard work to make a speech when you have listened to compliments
from the powers in authority. A compliment is a hard text to preach to.
When the chairman introduces me as a person of merit, and when he says
pleasant things about me, I always feel like answering simply that what
he says is true; that it is all right; that, as far as I am concerned,
the things he said can stand as they are. But you always have to say
something, and that is what frightens me.
I remember out in Sydney once having to respond to some complimentary
toast, and my one desire was to turn in my tracks like any other worm
--and run, for it. I was remembering that occasion at a later date when
I had to introduce a speaker. Hoping, then, to spur his speech by
putting him, in joke, on the defensive, I accused him in my introduction
of everything I thought it impossible for him to have committed. When I
finished there was an awful calm. I had been telling his life history by
One must keep up one's character. Earn a character first if you can, and
if you can't, then assume one. From the code of morals I have been
following and revising and revising for seventy-two years I remember one
detail. All my life I have been honest--comparatively honest. I could
never use money I had not made honestly--I could only lend it.
Last spring I met General Miles again, and he commented on the fact that
we had known each other thirty years. He said it was strange that we had
not met years before, when we had both been in Washington. At that point
I changed the subject, and I changed it with art. But the facts are
I was then under contract for my Innocents Abroad, but did not have a
cent to live on while I wrote it. So I went to Washington to do a little
journalism. There I met an equally poor friend, William Davidson, who
had not a single vice, unless you call it a vice in a Scot to love
Scotch. Together we devised the first and original newspaper syndicate,
selling two letters a week to twelve newspapers and getting $1 a letter.
That $24 a week would have been enough for us--if we had not had to
support the jug.
But there was a day when we felt that we must have $3 right away--$3 at
once. That was how I met the General. It doesn't matter now what we
wanted so much money at one time for, but that Scot and I did
occasionally want it. The Scot sent me out one day to get it. He had a
great belief in Providence, that Scottish friend of mine. He said: "The
Lord will provide."
I had given up trying to find the money lying about, and was in a hotel
lobby in despair, when I saw a beautiful unfriended dog. The dog saw me,
too, and at once we became acquainted. Then General Miles came in,
admired the dog, and asked me to price it. I priced it at $3. He
offered me an opportunity to reconsider the value of the beautiful
animal, but I refused to take more than Providence knew I needed. The
General carried the dog to his room.
Then came in a sweet little middle-aged man, who at once began looking
around the lobby.
"Did you lose a dog?" I asked. He said he had.
"I think I could find it," I volunteered, "for a small sum."
"'How much?'" he asked. And I told him $3.
He urged me to accept more, but I did not wish to outdo Providence. Then
I went to the General's room and asked for the dog back. He was very
angry, and wanted to know why I had sold him a dog that did not belong to
"That's a singular question to ask me, sir," I replied. "Didn't you ask
me to sell him? You started it." And he let me have him. I gave him
back his $3 and returned the dog, collect, to its owner. That second $3
I earned home to the Scot, and we enjoyed it, but the first $3, the money
I got from the General, I would have had to lend.
The General seemed not to remember my part in that adventure, and I never
had the heart to tell him about it.
WHEN IN DOUBT, TELL THE TRUTH
Mark Twain's speech at the dinner of the "Freundschaft
Society," March 9, 1906, had as a basis the words of
introduction used by Toastmaster Frank, who, referring to
Pudd'nhead Wilson, used the phrase, "When in doubt, tell the
MR. CHAIRMAN, Mr. PUTZEL, AND GENTLEMEN OF THE FREUNDSCHAFT,--That maxim
I did invent, but never expected it to be applied to me. I did say,
"When you are in doubt," but when I am in doubt myself I use more
Mr. Grout suggested that if I have anything to say against Mr. Putzel, or
any criticism of his career or his character, I am the last person to
come out on account of that maxim and tell the truth. That is altogether
I do think it is right for other people to be virtuous so that they can
be happy hereafter, but if I knew every impropriety that even Mr. Putzel
has committed in his life, I would not mention one of them. My judgment
has been maturing for seventy years, and I have got to that point where I
know better than that.
Mr. Putzel stands related to me in a very tender way (through the tax
office), and it does not behoove me to say anything which could by any
possibility militate against that condition of things.
Now, that word--taxes, taxes, taxes! I have heard it to-night. I have
heard it all night. I wish somebody would change that subject; that is a
very sore subject to me.
I was so relieved when judge Leventritt did find something that was not
taxable--when he said that the commissioner could not tax your patience.
And that comforted me. We've got so much taxation. I don't know of a
single foreign product that enters this country untaxed except the answer
On an occasion like this the proprieties require that you merely pay
compliments to the guest of the occasion, and I am merely here to pay
compliments to the guest of the occasion, not to criticise him in any
way, and I can say only complimentary things to him.
When I went down to the tax office some time ago, for the first time in
New York, I saw Mr. Putzel sitting in the "Seat of Perjury." I recognized
him right away. I warmed to him on the spot. I didn't know that I had
ever seen him before, but just as soon as I saw him I recognized him.
I had met him twenty-five years before, and at that time had achieved a
knowledge of his abilities and something more than that.
I thought: "Now, this is the man whom I saw twenty-five years ago."
On that occasion I not only went free at his hands, but carried off
something more than that. I hoped it would happen again.
It was twenty-five years ago when I saw a young clerk in Putnam's
bookstore. I went in there and asked for George Haven Putnam, and handed
him my card, and then the young man said Mr. Putnam was busy and I
couldn't see him. Well, I had merely called in a social way, and so it
I was going out when I saw a great big, fat, interesting-looking book
lying there, and I took it up. It was an account of the invasion of
England in the fourteenth century by the Preaching Friar, and it
I asked him the price of it, and he said four dollars.
"Well," I said, "what discount do you allow to publishers?"
He said: "Forty percent. off."
I said: "All right, I am a publisher."
He put down the figure, forty per cent. off, on a card.
Then I said: "What discount do you allow to authors?"
He said: "Forty per cent. off."
"Well," I said, "set me down as an author."
"Now," said I, "what discount do you allow to the clergy?"
He said: "Forty per cent. off."
I said to him that I was only on the road, and that I was studying for
the ministry. I asked him wouldn't he knock off twenty per cent. for
that. He set down the figure, and he never smiled once.
I was working off these humorous brilliancies on him and getting no
return--not a scintillation in his eye, not a spark of recognition of
what I was doing there. I was almost in despair.
I thought I might try him once more, so I said "Now, I am also a member
of the human race. Will you let me have the ten per cent. off for that?"
He set it down, and never smiled.
Well, I gave it up. I said: "There is my card with my address on it,
but I have not any money with me. Will you please send the bill to
Hartford?" I took up the book and was going away.
He said: "Wait a minute. There is forty cents coming to you."
When I met him in the tax office I thought maybe I could make something
again, but I could not. But I had not any idea I could when I came, and
as it turned out I did get off entirely free.
I put up my hand and made a statement. It gave me a good deal of pain to
do that. I was not used to it. I was born and reared in the higher
circles of Missouri, and there we don't do such things--didn't in my
time, but we have got that little matter settled--got a sort of tax
levied on me.
Then he touched me. Yes, he touched me this time, because he cried
--cried! He was moved to tears to see that I, a virtuous person only a
year before, after immersion for one year--during one year in the New
York morals--had no more conscience than a millionaire.
THE DAY WE CELEBRATE,
ADDRESS AT THE FOURTH-OF-JULY DINNER OF THE AMERICAN SOCIETY,
I noticed in Ambassador Choate's speech that he said: "You may be
Americans or Englishmen, but you cannot be both at the same time."
You responded by applause.
Consider the effect of a short residence here. I find the Ambassador
rises first to speak to a toast, followed by a Senator, and I come third.
What a subtle tribute that to monarchial influence of the country when
you place rank above respectability!
I was born modest, and if I had not been things like this would force it
upon me. I understand it quite well. I am here to see that between them
they do justice to the day we celebrate, and in case they do not I must
do it myself. But I notice they have considered this day merely from one
side--its sentimental, patriotic, poetic side. But it has another side.
It has a commercial, a business side that needs reforming. It has a
I do not say "an" historical side, because I am speaking the American
language. I do not see why our cousins should continue to say "an"
hospital, "an" historical fact, "an" horse. It seems to me the Congress
of Women, now in session, should look to it. I think "an" is having a
little too much to do with it. It comes of habit, which accounts for
Yesterday, for example, I was at a luncheon party. At the end of the
party a great dignitary of the English Established Church went away half
an hour before anybody else and carried off my hat. Now, that was an
innocent act on his part. He went out first, and of course had the
choice of hats. As a rule I try to get out first myself. But I hold
that it was an innocent, unconscious act, due, perhaps, to heredity.
He was thinking about ecclesiastical matters, and when a man is in that
condition of mind he will take anybody's hat. The result was that the
whole afternoon I was under the influence of his clerical hat and could
not tell a lie. Of course, he was hard at it.
It is a compliment to both of us. His hat fitted me exactly; my hat
fitted him exactly. So I judge I was born to rise to high dignity in the
Church some how or other, but I do not know what he was born for. That
is an illustration of the influence of habit, and it is perceptible here
when they say "an" hospital, "an" European, "an" historical.
The business aspects of the Fourth of July is not perfect as it stands.
See what it costs us every year with loss of life, the crippling of
thousands with its fireworks, and the burning down of property. It is
not only sacred to patriotism sand universal freedom, but to the surgeon,
the undertaker, the insurance offices--and they are working, it for all
it is worth.
I am pleased to see that we have a cessation of war for the time. This
coming from me, a soldier, you will appreciate. I was a soldier in the
Southern war for two weeks, and when gentlemen get up to speak of the
great deeds our army and navy have recently done, why, it goes all
through me and fires up the old war spirit. I had in my first engagement
three horses shot under me. The next ones went over my head, the next
hit me in the back. Then I retired to meet an engagement.
I thank you, gentlemen, for making even a slight reference to the war
profession, in which I distinguished myself, short as my career was.
The American Society in London gave a banquet, July 4, 1907, at
the Hotel Cecil. Ambassador Choate called on Mr. Clemens to
respond to the toast "The Day We Celebrate."
MR. CHAIRMAN, MY LORD, AND GENTLEMEN,--Once more it happens, as it has
happened so often since I arrived in England a week or two ago, that
instead of celebrating the Fourth of July properly as has been indicated,
I have to first take care of my personal character. Sir Mortimer Durand
still remains unconvinced. Well, I tried to convince these people from
the beginning that I did not take the Ascot Cup; and as I have failed to
convince anybody that I did not take the cup, I might as well confess I
did take it and be done with it. I don't see why this uncharitable
feeling should follow me everywhere, and why I should have that crime
thrown up to me on all occasions. The tears that I have wept over it
ought to have created a different feeling than this--and, besides,
I don't think it is very right or fair that, considering England has been
trying to take a cup of ours for forty years--I don't see why they should
take so much trouble when I tried to go into the business myself.
Sir Mortimer Durand, too, has had trouble from going to a dinner here,
and he has told you what he suffered in consequence. But what did he
suffer? He only missed his train, and one night of discomfort, and he
remembers it to this day. Oh! if you could only think what I have
suffered from a similar circumstance. Two or three years ago, in New
York, with that Society there which is made up of people from all British
Colonies, and from Great Britain generally, who were educated in British
colleges and British schools, I was there to respond to a toast of some
kind or other, and I did then what I have been in the habit of doing,
from a selfish motive, for a long time, and that is, I got myself placed
No, 3 in the list of speakers--then you get home early.
I had to go five miles up-river, and had to catch a particular train or
not get there. But see the magnanimity which is born in me, which I have
cultivated all my life. A very famous and very great British clergyman
came to me presently, and he said: "I am away down in the list; I have
got to catch a certain train this Saturday night; if I don't catch that
train I shall be carried beyond midnight and break the Sabbath. Won't
you change places with me?" I said: "Certainly I will." I did it at
once. Now, see what happened.
Talk about Sir Mortimer Durand's sufferings for a single night! I have
suffered ever since because I saved that gentleman from breaking the
Sabbath-yes, saved him. I took his place, but I lost my train, and it
was I who broke the Sabbath. Up to that time I never had broken the
Sabbath in my life, and from that day to this I never have kept it.
Oh! I am learning much here to-night. I find I didn't know anything
about the American Society--that is, I didn't know its chief virtue.
I didn't know its chief virtue until his Excellency our Ambassador
revealed it--I may say, exposed it. I was intending to go home on the
13th of this month, but I look upon that in a different light now. I am
going to stay here until the American Society pays my passage.
Our Ambassador has spoken of our Fourth of July and the noise it makes.
We have got a double Fourth of July--a daylight Fourth and a midnight
Fourth. During the day in America, as our Ambassador has indicated, we
keep the Fourth of July properly in a reverent spirit. We devote it to
teaching our children patriotic things--reverence for the Declaration of
Independence. We honor the day all through the daylight hours, and when
night comes we dishonor it. Presently--before long--they are getting
nearly ready to begin now--on the Atlantic coast, when night shuts down,
that pandemonium will begin, and there will be noise, and noise, and
noise--all night long--and there will be more than noise there will be
people crippled, there will be people killed, there will be people who
will lose their eyes, and all through that permission which we give to
irresponsible boys to play with firearms and fire-crackers, and all sorts
of dangerous things: We turn that Fourth of July, alas! over to rowdies
to drink and get drunk and make the night hideous, and we cripple and
kill more people than you would imagine.
We probably began to celebrate our Fourth-of-July night in that way one
hundred and twenty-five years ago, and on every Fourth-of-July night
since these horrors have grown and grown, until now, in our five
thousand towns of America, somebody gets killed or crippled on every
Fourth-of-July night, besides those cases of sick persons whom we never
hear of, who die as the result of the noise or the shock. They cripple
and kill more people on the Fourth of July in, America than they kill and
cripple in our wars nowadays, and there are no pensions for these folk.
And, too, we burn houses. Really we destroy more property on every
Fourth-of-July night than the whole of the United States was worth one
hundred and twenty-five years ago. Really our Fourth of July is our day
of mourning, our day of sorrow. Fifty thousand people who have lost
friends, or who have had friends crippled, receive that Fourth of July,
when it comes, as a day of mourning for the losses they have sustained in
I have suffered in that way myself. I have had relatives killed in that
way. One was in Chicago years ago--an uncle of mine, just as good an
uncle as I have ever had, and I had lots of them--yes, uncles to burn,
uncles to spare. This poor uncle, full of patriotism, opened his mouth
to hurrah, and a rocket went down his throat. Before that man could ask
for a drink of water to quench that thing, it blew up and scattered him
all, over the forty-five States, and--really, now, this is true--I know
about it myself--twenty-four hours after that it was raining buttons,
recognizable as his, on the Atlantic seaboard. A person cannot have a
disaster like that and be entirely cheerful the rest of his life. I had
another uncle, on an entirely different Fourth of July, who was blown up
that way, and really it trimmed him as it would a tree. He had hardly a
limb left on him anywhere. All we have left now is an expurgated edition
of that uncle. But never mind about these things; they are merely
passing matters. Don't let me make you sad.
Sir Mortimer Durand said that you, the English people, gave up your
colonies over there--got tired of them--and did it with reluctance.
Now I wish you just to consider that he was right about that, and that he
had his reasons for saying that England did not look upon our Revolution
as a foreign war, but as a civil war fought by Englishmen.
Our Fourth of July which we honor so much, and which we love so much, and
which we take so much pride in, is an English institution, not an
American one, and it comes of a great ancestry. The first Fourth of July
in that noble genealogy dates back seven centuries lacking eight years.
That is the day of the Great Charter--the Magna Charta--which was born at
Runnymede in the next to the last year of King John, and portions of the
liberties secured thus by those hardy Barons from that reluctant King
John are a part of our Declaration of Independence, of our Fourth of
July, of our American liberties. And the second of those Fourths of July
was not born, until four centuries later, in, Charles the First's time,
in the Bill of Rights, and that is ours, that is part of our liberties.
The next one was still English, in New England, where they established
that principle which remains with us to this day, and will continue to
remain with us--no taxation without representation. That is always going
to stand, and that the English Colonies in New England gave us.
The Fourth of July, and the one which you are celebrating now, born, in
Philadelphia on the 4th of July, 1776--that is English, too. It is not
American. Those were English colonists, subjects of King George III.,
Englishmen at heart, who protested against the oppressions of the Home
Government. Though they proposed to cure those oppressions and remove
them, still remaining under the Crown, they were not intending a
revolution. The revolution was brought about by circumstances which they
could not control. The Declaration of Independence was written by a
British subject, every name signed to it was the name of a British
subject. There was not the name of a single American attached to the
Declaration of Independence--in fact, there was not an American in the
country in that day except the Indians out on the plains. They were
Englishmen, all Englishmen--Americans did not begin until seven, years
later, when that Fourth of July had become seven years old, and then, the
American Republic was established. Since then, there have been
Americans. So you see what we owe to England in the matter of liberties.
We have, however, one Fourth of July which is absolutely our own, and
that is that great proclamation issued forty years ago by that great
American to whom Sir Mortimer Durand paid that just and beautiful
tribute--Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln's proclamation, which not only set the
black slaves free, but set the white man free also. The owner was set
free from the burden and offence, that sad condition of things where he
was in so many instances a master and owner of slaves when he did not
want to be. That proclamation set them all free. But even in this
matter England suggested it, for England had set her slaves free thirty
years before, and we followed her example. We always followed her
example, whether it was good or bad.
And it was an English judge that issued that other great proclamation,
and established that great principle that, when a slave, let him belong
to whom he may, and let him come whence he may, sets his foot upon
English soil, his fetters by that act fall away and he is a free man
before the world. We followed the example of 1833, and we freed our
slaves as I have said.
It is true, then, that all our Fourths of July, and we have five of them,
England gave to us, except that one that I have mentioned--the
Emancipation Proclamation, and, lest we forget, let us all remember that
we owe these things to England. Let us be able to say to Old England,
this great-hearted, venerable old mother of the race, you gave us our
Fourths of July that we love and that we honor and revere, you gave us
the Declaration of Independence, which is the Charter of our rights, you,
the venerable Mother of Liberties, the Protector of Anglo-Saxon Freedom
--you gave us these things, and we do most honestly thank you for them.
AMERICANS AND THE ENGLISH
ADDRESS AT A GATHERING OF AMERICANS IN LONDON, JULY 4, 1872
MR. CHAIRMAN AND LADIES AND GENTLEMEN,--I thank you for the compliment
which has just been tendered me, and to show my appreciation of it I will
not afflict you with many words. It is pleasant to celebrate in this
peaceful way, upon this old mother soil, the anniversary of an experiment
which was born of war with this same land so long ago, and wrought out to
a successful issue by the devotion of our ancestors. It has taken nearly
a hundred years to bring the English and Americans into kindly and
mutually appreciative relations, but I believe it has been accomplished
at last. It was a great step when the two last misunderstandings were
settled by arbitration instead of cannon. It is another great step when
England adopts our sewing-machines without claiming the invention--as
usual. It was another when they imported one of our sleeping-cars the
other day. And it warmed my heart more than, I can tell, yesterday, when
I witnessed the spectacle of an Englishman, ordering an American sherry
cobbler of his own free will and accord--and not only that but with a
great brain and a level head reminding the barkeeper not to forget the
strawberries. With a common origin, a common language, a common
literature, a common religion, and--common drinks, what is longer needful
to the cementing of the two nations together in a permanent bond of
This is an age of progress, and ours is a progressive land. A great and
glorious land, too--a land which has developed a Washington, a Franklin,
a Wm. M. Tweed, a Longfellow, a Motley, a Jay Gould, a Samuel C.
Pomeroy, a recent Congress which has never had its equal (in some
respects), and a United States Army which conquered sixty Indians in
eight months by tiring them out which is much better than uncivilized
slaughter, God knows. We have a criminal jury system which is superior
to any in the world; and its efficiency is only marred by the difficulty
of finding twelve men every day who don't know anything and can't read.
And I may observe that we have an insanity plea that would have saved
Cain. I think I can say, and say with pride, that we have some
legislatures that bring higher prices than any in the world.
I refer with effusion to our railway system, which consents to let us
live, though it might do the opposite, being our owners. It only
destroyed three thousand and seventy lives last year by collisions, and
twenty-seven thousand two hundred and sixty by running over heedless and
unnecessary people at crossings. The companies seriously regretted the
killing of these thirty thousand people, and went so far as to pay for
some of them--voluntarily, of course, for the meanest of us would not
claim that we possess a court treacherous enough to enforce a law against
a railway company. But, thank Heaven, the railway companies are
generally disposed to do the right and kindly thing without--compulsion.
I know of an instance which greatly touched me at the time. After an
accident the company sent home the remains of a dear distant old relative
of mine in a basket, with the remark, "Please state what figure you hold
him at--and return the basket." Now there couldn't be anything
friendlier than that.
But I must not stand here and brag all night. However, you won't mind a
body bragging a little about his country on the Fourth of July. It is a
fair and legitimate time to fly the eagle. I will say only one more word
of brag--and a hopeful one. It is this. We have a form of government
which gives each man a fair chance and no favor. With us no individual
is born with a right to look down upon his neighbor and hold him in
contempt. Let such of us as are not dukes find our consolation in that.
And we may find hope for the future in the fact that as unhappy as is the
condition of our political morality to-day, England has risen up out of a
far fouler since the days when Charles I. ennobled courtesans and all
political place was a matter of bargain and sale. There is hope for us
*At least the above is the speech which I was going to make,
but our minister, General Schenck, presided, and after the
blessing, got up and made a great, long, inconceivably dull
harangue, and wound up by saying that inasmuch as speech-making
did not seem to exhilarate the guests much, all further oratory
would be dispensed with during the evening, and we could just
sit and talk privately to our elbow-neighbors and have a good,
sociable time. It is known that in consequence of that remark
forty-four perfected speeches died in the womb. The
depression, the gloom, the solemnity that reigned over the
banquet from that time forth will be a lasting memory with many
that were there. By that one thoughtless remark General
Schenck lost forty-four of the best friends he had in England.
More than one said that night: "And this is the sort of person
that is sent to represent us in a great sister empire!"
ADDRESS AT A DINNER GIVEN BY THE SAVAGE CLUB,
LONDON, SEPTEMBER 28, 1872.
Reported by Moncure D. Conway in the Cincinnati Commercial.
It affords me sincere pleasure to meet this distinguished club, a club
which has extended its hospitalities and its cordial welcome to so many
of my countrymen. I hope [and here the speaker's voice became low and
fluttering] you will excuse these clothes. I am going to the theatre;
that will explain these clothes. I have other clothes than these.
Judging human nature by what I have seen of it, I suppose that the
customary thing for a stranger to do when he stands here is to make a pun
on the name of this club, under the impression, of course, that he is the
first man that that idea has occurred to. It is a credit to our human
nature, not a blemish upon it; for it shows that underlying all our
depravity (and God knows and you know we are depraved enough) and all our
sophistication, and untarnished by them, there is a sweet germ of
innocence and simplicity still. When a stranger says to me, with a glow
of inspiration in his eye, some gentle, innocuous little thing about
"Twain and one flesh," and all that sort of thing, I don't try to crush
that man into the earth--no. I feel like saying: "Let me take you by the
hand, sir; let me embrace you; I have not heard that pun for weeks."
We will deal in palpable puns. We will call parties named King "Your
Majesty," and we will say to the Smiths that we think we have heard that
name before somewhere. Such is human nature. We cannot alter this.
It is God that made us so for some good and wise purpose. Let us not
repine. But though I may seem strange, may seem eccentric, I mean to
refrain from punning upon the name of this club, though I could make a
very good one if I had time to think about it--a week.
I cannot express to you what entire enjoyment I find in this first visit
to this prodigious metropolis of yours. Its wonders seem to me to be
limitless. I go about as in a dream--as in a realm of enchantment--where
many things are rare and beautiful, and all things are strange and
marvellous. Hour after hour I stand--I stand spellbound, as it were--and
gaze upon the statuary in Leicester Square. [Leicester Square being a
horrible chaos, with the relic of an equestrian statue in the centre, the
king being headless and limbless, and the horse in little better
condition.] I visit the mortuary effigies of noble old Henry VIII., and
Judge Jeffreys, and the preserved gorilla, and try to make up my mind
which of my ancestors I admire the most. I go to that matchless Hyde
Park and drive all around it, and then I start to enter it at the Marble
Arch---and--am induced to "change my mind." [Cabs are not permitted in
Hyde Park--nothing less aristocratic than a private carriage.] It is a
great benefaction--is Hyde Park. There, in his hansom cab, the invalid
can go--the poor, sad child of misfortune--and insert his nose between
the railings, and breathe the pure, health--giving air of the country and
of heaven. And if he is a swell invalid, who isn't obliged to depend
upon parks for his country air, he can drive inside--if he owns his
vehicle. I drive round and round Hyde Park, and the more I see of the
edges of it the more grateful I am that the margin is extensive.
And I have been to the Zoological Gardens. What a wonderful place that
is! I never have seen such a curious and interesting variety of wild
animals in any garden before--except "Mabilie." I never believed before
there were so many different kinds of animals in the world as you can
find there--and I don't believe it yet. I have been to the British
Museum. I would advise you to drop in there some time when you have
nothing to do for--five minutes--if you have never been there: It seems
to me the noblest monument that this nation has yet erected to her
greatness. I say to her, our greatness--as a nation. True, she has
built other monuments, and stately ones, as well; but these she has
uplifted in honor of two or three colossal demigods who have stalked
across the world's stage, destroying tyrants and delivering nations, and
whose prodigies will still live in the memories of men ages after their
monuments shall have crumbled to dust--I refer to the Wellington and
Nelson monuments, and--the Albert memorial. [Sarcasm. The Albert
memorial is the finest monument in the world, and celebrates the
existence of as commonplace a person as good luck ever lifted out of
The library at the British Museum I find particularly astounding.
I have read there hours together, and hardly made an impression on it.
I revere that library. It is the author's friend. I don't care how mean
a book is, it always takes one copy. [A copy of every book printed in
Great Britain must by law be sent to the British Museum, a law much
complained of by publishers.] And then every day that author goes there
to gaze at that book, and is encouraged to go on in the good work.
And what a touching sight it is of a Saturday afternoon to see the poor,
careworn clergymen gathered together in that vast reading--room cabbaging
sermons for Sunday. You will pardon my referring to these things.
Everything in this monster city interests me, and I cannot keep from
talking, even at the risk of being instructive. People here seem always
to express distances by parables. To a stranger it is just a little
confusing to be so parabolic--so to speak. I collar a citizen, and I
think I am going to get some valuable information out of him. I ask him
how far it is to Birmingham, and he says it is twenty-one shillings and
sixpence. Now we know that doesn't help a man who is trying to learn.
I find myself down-town somewhere, and I want to get some sort of idea
where I am--being usually lost when alone--and I stop a citizen and say:
"How far is it to Charing Cross?" "Shilling fare in a cab," and off he
goes. I suppose if I were to ask a Londoner how far it, is from the
sublime to the ridiculous, he would try to express it in coin. But I am
trespassing upon your time with these geological statistics and
historical reflections. I will not longer keep you from your orgies.
'Tis a real pleasure for me to be here, and I thank you for it. The name
of the Savage Club is associated in my mind with the kindly interest and
the friendly offices which you lavished upon an old friend of mine who
came among you a stranger, and you opened your English hearts to him and
gave him welcome and a home--Artemus Ward. Asking that you will join me,
I give you his memory.
Mr. Clemens spent several days in May, 1901, in Princeton, New
Jersey, as the guest of Lawrence Hutton. He gave a reading one
evening before a large audience composed of university students
and professors. Before the reading Mr. Clemens said:
I feel exceedingly surreptitious in coming down here without an
announcement of any kind. I do not want to see any advertisements
around, for the reason that I'm not a lecturer any longer. I reformed
long ago, and I break over and commit this sin only just one time this
year: and that is moderate, I think, for a person of my disposition. It
is not my purpose to lecture any more as long as I live. I never intend
to stand up on a platform any more--unless by the request of a sheriff or
something like that.
THE ST. LOUIS HARBOR-BOAT "MARK TWAIN"
The Countess de Rochambeau christened the St. Louis harbor-boat
'Mark Twain' in honor of Mr. Clemens, June 6, 1902. Just
before the luncheon he acted as pilot.
"Lower away lead!" boomed out the voice of the pilot.
"Mark twain, quarter five and one-half-six feet!" replied the
"You are all dead safe as long as I have the wheel--but this is
my last time at the wheel."
At the luncheon Mr. Clemens made a short address.
First of all, no--second of all--I wish to offer my thanks for the honor
done me by naming this last rose of summer of the Mississippi Valley for
me, this boat which represents a perished interest, which I fortified
long ago, but did not save its life. And, in the first place, I wish to
thank the Countess de Rochambeau for the honor she has done me in
presiding at this christening.
I believe that it is peculiarly appropriate that I should be allowed the
privilege of joining my voice with the general voice of St. Louis and
Missouri in welcoming to the Mississippi Valley and this part of the
continent these illustrious visitors from France.
When La Salle came down this river a century and a quarter ago there was
nothing on its banks but savages. He opened up this great river, and by
his simple act was gathered in this great Louisiana territory. I would
have done it myself for half the money.
ADDRESS AT A DINNER GIVEN BY COLONEL GEORGE HARVEY AT
DELMONICO'S, DECEMBER 5, 1905, TO CELEBRATE THE SEVENTIETH
ANNIVERSARY OF MR. CLEMENS' BIRTH
Mr. Howells introduced Mr. Clemens:
"Now, ladies and gentlemen, and Colonel Harvey, I will try not
to be greedy on your behalf in wishing the health of our
honored and, in view of his great age, our revered guest. I
will not say, 'Oh King, live forever!' but 'Oh King, live as
long as you like!'" [Amid great applause and waving of napkins
all rise and drink to Mark Twain.]
Well, if I made that joke, it is the best one I ever made, and it is in
the prettiest language, too.--I never can get quite to that height. But
I appreciate that joke, and I shall remember it--and I shall use it when
I have had a great many birthdays in my time. I remember the first one
very well, and I always think of it with indignation; everything was so
crude, unaesthetic, primeval. Nothing like this at all. No proper
appreciative preparation made; nothing really ready. Now, for a person
born with high and delicate instincts--why, even the cradle wasn't
whitewashed--nothing ready at all. I hadn't any hair, I hadn't any
teeth, I hadn't any clothes, I had to go to my first banquet just like
that. Well, everybody came swarming in. It was the merest little bit of
a village--hardly that, just a little hamlet, in the backwoods of
Missouri, where nothing ever happened, and the people were all
interested, and they all came; they looked me over to see if there was
anything fresh in my line. Why, nothing ever happened in that village
--I--why, I was the only thing that had really happened there for months
and months and months; and although I say it myself that shouldn't, I
came the nearest to being a real event that had happened in that village
in more than, two years. Well, those people came, they came with that
curiosity which is so provincial, with that frankness which also is so
provincial, and they examined me all around and gave their opinion.
Nobody asked them, and I shouldn't have minded if anybody had paid me a
compliment, but nobody did. Their opinions were all just green with
prejudice, and I feel those opinions to this day. Well, I stood that as
long as--well, you know I was born courteous, and I stood it to the
limit. I stood it an hour, and then the worm turned. I was the warm; it
was my turn to turn, and I turned. I knew very well the strength of my
position; I knew that I was the only spotlessly pure and innocent person
in that whole town, and I came out and said so: And they could not say a
word. It was so true: They blushed; they were embarrassed. Well, that
was the first after-dinner speech I ever made: I think it was after
It's a long stretch between that first birthday speech and this one.
That was my cradle-song; and this is my swan-song, I suppose. I am used
to swan-songs; I have sung them several, times.
This is my seventieth birthday, and I wonder if you all rise to the size
of that proposition, realizing all the significance of that phrase,
The seventieth birthday! It is the time of life when you arrive at a new
and awful dignity; when you may throw aside the decent reserves which
have oppressed you for a generation and stand unafraid and unabashed upon
your seven-terraced summit and look down and teach--unrebuked. You can
tell the world how you got there. It is what they all do. You shall
never get tired of telling by what delicate arts and deep moralities you
climbed up to that great place. You will explain the process and dwell
on the particulars with senile rapture. I have been anxious to explain
my own system this long time, and now at last I have the right.
I have achieved my seventy years in the usual way: by sticking strictly
to a scheme of life which would kill anybody else. It sounds like an
exaggeration, but that is really the common rule for attaining to old
age. When we examine the programme of any of these garrulous old people
we always find that the habits which have preserved them would have
decayed us; that the way of life which enabled them to live upon the
property of their heirs so long, as Mr. Choate says, would have put us
out of commission ahead of time. I will offer here, as a sound maxim,
this: That we can't reach old age by another man's road.
I will now teach, offering my way of life to whomsoever desires to commit
suicide by the scheme which has enabled me to beat the doctor and the
hangman for seventy years. Some of the details may sound untrue, but
they are not. I am not here to deceive; I am here to teach.
We have no permanent habits until we are forty. Then they begin to
harden, presently they petrify, then business begins. Since forty I have
been regular about going to bed and getting up--and that is one of the
main things. I have made it a rule to go to bed when there wasn't
anybody left to sit up with; and I have made it a rule to get up when I
had to. This has resulted in an unswerving regularity of irregularity.
It has saved me sound, but it would injure another person.
In the matter of diet--which is another main thing--I have been
persistently strict in sticking to the things which didn't agree with me
until one or the other of us got the best of it. Until lately I got the
best of it myself. But last spring I stopped frolicking with mince-pie
after midnight; up to then I had always believed it wasn't loaded. For
thirty years I have taken coffee and bread at eight in the morning, and
no bite nor sup until seven-thirty in the evening. Eleven hours. That
is all right for me, and is wholesome, because I have never had a
headache in my life, but headachy people would not reach seventy
comfortably by that road, and they would be foolish to try it. And I
wish to urge upon you this--which I think is wisdom--that if you find you
can't make seventy by any but an uncomfortable road, don't you go. When
they take off the Pullman and retire you to the rancid smoker, put on
your things, count your checks, and get out at the first way station
where there's a cemetery.
I have made it a rule never to smoke more than one cigar at a time.
I have no other restriction as regards smoking. I do not know just when
I began to smoke, I only know that it was in my father's lifetime, and
that I was discreet. He passed from this life early in 1847, when I was
a shade past eleven; ever since then I have smoked publicly. As an
example to others, and--not that I care for moderation myself, it has
always been my rule never to smoke when asleep, and never to refrain when
awake. It is a good rule. I mean, for me; but some of you know quite
well that it wouldn't answer for everybody that's trying to get to be
I smoke in bed until I have to go to sleep; I wake up in the night,
sometimes once, sometimes twice; sometimes three times, and I never waste
any of these opportunities to smoke. This habit is so old and dear and
precious to me that I would feel as you, sir, would feel if you should
lose the only moral you've got--meaning the chairman--if you've got one:
I am making no charges: I will grant, here, that I have stopped smoking
now and then, for a few months at a time, but it was not on principle, it
was only to show off; it was to pulverize those critics who said I was a
slave to my habits and couldn't break my bonds.
To-day it is all of sixty years since I began to smoke the limit. I have
never bought cigars with life-belts around them. I early found that
those were too expensive for me: I have always bought cheap cigars
--reasonably cheap, at any rate. Sixty years ago they cost me four
dollars a barrel, but my taste has improved, latterly, and I pay seven,
now. Six or seven. Seven, I think. Yes; it's seven. But that includes
the barrel. I often have smoking-parties at my house; but the people
that come have always just taken the pledge. I wonder why that is?
As for drinking, I have no rule about that. When the others drink I
like to help; otherwise I remain dry, by habit and preference. This
dryness does not hurt me, but it could easily hurt you, because you are
different. You let it alone.
Since I was seven years old I have seldom take, a dose of medicine, and
have still seldomer needed one. But up to seven I lived exclusively on
allopathic medicines. Not that I needed them, for I don't think I did;
it was for economy; my father took a drug-store for a debt, and it made
cod-liver oil cheaper than the other breakfast foods. We had nine
barrels of it, and it lasted me seven years. Then I was weaned. The
rest of the family had to get along with rhubarb and ipecac and such
things, because I was the pet. I was the first Standard Oil Trust.
I had it all. By the time the drugstore was exhausted my health was
established, and there has never been much the matter with me since.
But you know very well it would be foolish for the average child to start
for seventy on that basis. It happened to be just the thing for me,
but that was merely an accident; it couldn't happen again in a century.
I have never taken any exercise, except sleeping and resting, and I never
intend to take any. Exercise is loathsome. And it cannot be any benefit
when you are tired; and I was always tired. But let another person try
my way, and see where he will come out. I desire now to repeat and
emphasise that maxim: We can't reach old age by another man's road. My
habits protect my life, but they would assassinate you.
I have lived a severely moral life. But it would be a mistake for other
people to try that, or for me to recommend it. Very few would succeed:
you have to have a perfectly colossal stock of morals; and you can't get
them on a margin; you have to have the whole thing, and put them in your
box. Morals are an acquirement--like music, like a foreign language,
like piety, poker, paralysis--no man is born with them. I wasn't myself,
I started poor. I hadn't a single moral. There is hardly a man in this
house that is poorer than I was then. Yes, I started like that--the
world before me, not a moral in the slot. Not even an insurance moral.
I can remember the first one I ever got. I can remember the landscape,
the weather, the--I can remember how everything looked. It was an old
moral, an old second-hand moral, all out of repair, and didn't fit,
anyway. But if you are careful with a thing like that, and keep it in a
dry place, and save it for processions, and Chautauquas, and World's
Fairs, and so on, and disinfect it now and then, and give it a fresh coat
of whitewash once in a while, you will be surprised to see how well she
will last and how long she will keep sweet, or at least inoffensive.
When I got that mouldy old moral, she had stopped growing, because she
hadn't any exercise; but I worked her hard, I worked her Sundays and all.
Under this cultivation she waxed in might and stature beyond belief, and
served me well and was my pride and joy for sixty-three years; then she
got to associating with insurance presidents, and lost flesh and
character, and was a sorrow to look at and no longer competent for
business. She was a great loss to me. Yet not all loss. I sold her
--ah, pathetic skeleton, as she was--I sold her to Leopold, the pirate
King of Belgium; he sold her to our Metropolitan Museum, and it was very
glad to get her, for without a rag on, she stands 57 feet long and 16
feet high, and they think she's a brontosaur. Well, she looks it. They
believe it will take nineteen geological periods to breed her match.
Morals are of inestimable value, for every man is born crammed with sin
microbes, and the only thing that can extirpate these sin microbes is
morals. Now you take a sterilized Christian--I mean, you take the
sterilized Christian, for there's only one. Dear sir, I wish you
wouldn't look at me like that.
Threescore years and ten!
It is the Scriptural statute of limitations. After that, you owe no
active duties; for you the strenuous life is over. You are a
time-expired man, to use Kipling's military phrase: You have served your
term, well or less well, and you are mustered out. You are become an
honorary member of the republic, you are emancipated, compulsions are not
for you, nor any bugle-tail but "lights out." You pay the time-worn duty
bills if you choose, or decline if you prefer--and without prejudice--for
they are not legally collectable.
The previous-engagement plea, which in forty years has cost you so many
tinges, you cam lay aside forever; on this side of the grave you will
never need it again. If you shrink at thought of night, and winter, and
the late home-coming from the banquet and the lights and the laughter
through the deserted streets--a desolation which would not remind you
now, as for a generation it did, that your friends are sleeping, and you
must creep in a-tiptoe and not disturb them, but would only remind you
that you need not tiptoe, you can never disturb them more--if you shrink
at thought of these things, you need only reply, "Your invitation honors
me, and pleases me because you still keep me in your remembrance, but I
am seventy; seventy, and would nestle in the chimney-corner, and smoke my
pipe, and read my book, and take my rest, wishing you well in all
affection; and that when you in your return shall arrive at pier No. 70
you may step aboard your waiting ship with a reconciled spirit, and lay
your course toward the sinking sun with a contented heart."
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